Was the Laptop Ban For Flights from Europe Just Rejected?

Last week news outlets leaked that the laptop travel ban that was placed on flights from the Middle East in March, was going to go into effect for flights departing from Europe. This caused a bit of hysteria and even resulted in airlines like Delta inexplicably posting laptop ban signage prematurely. Luckily, there was significant pushback from airlines and the EU, with many officials citing the massive level of disruption that this would cause roughly 30 million passengers flying from Europe and underscoring the danger that lithium batteries in the cargo hold present.

As a result of that pushback, US officials, led by the deputy secretary of homeland security, Elaine Duke, met with EU officials in Brussels for four hours.

According to a joint EU-US statement: “At the meeting, both sides exchanged information on the serious evolving threats to aviation security and approaches to confronting such threats… Participants provided insight into existing aviation security standards and detection capabilities as well as recent security enhancements on both sides of the Atlantic related to large electronic devices placed in checked baggage.”

And after this four hour meeting, it looks like they may have decided against a ban on laptops and tablets in cabin baggage on flights from Europe.

It’s not 100% clear that the ban is not going to happen, however. 

The Guardian reports that, “[w]hile the EU delegation were not given a guarantee that a laptop ban would not be imposed, there is greater confidence in Brussels that it is unlikely to happen in the near future.”

Apparently there are still concerns within the aviation industry that the laptop ban could still reemerge in the coming weeks. The Guardian further reports that, “A spokesman for Airlines for Europe, the representative body for 22 major carriers, said: ‘We just know that there will further talks next week.’…

Pushed as to whether the laptop ban had been dropped, the European commission’s chief spokesman, Margaritis Schinas, declined to offer any cast-iron assurances during his daily press conference in Brussels, saying: ‘No ban on electronic devices was announced. Neither were any other measures decided during this meeting.'”

So this is a sign of progress but it doesn’t sound like there was an outright rejection of the laptop ban, especially since meetings are already set for next week.

I think this is great because it shows that the US and EU are capable of negotiating and hearing each other out on this important issue of security and safety. BBC even reports that “[EU] authorities had been assured by their US colleagues that the meeting signaled the start of an era of better communication on security issues under President Donald Trump.” Let’s hope so.

I fully expected a lap top ban to be implemented based on what sources were saying, so the fact that it wasn’t after this first meeting is a huge relief and gives me hope that we might not see this ban implemented at all.

Visiting the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway

The Vikings have a reputation for being ruthless plunderers but the image of the savage viking obscures the fact that the Vikings maintained a thriving society and made monumental advancements in maritime engineering, exploration, and trade. Luckily, at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway, you can witness some of the achievements of this culture.

The Viking Ship Museum

The Viking Ship Museum is small and admittedly won’t take you very long to explore. It consists of four large corridors which house three viking ships on display (although one is not much more than a collection of scraps) along with a range of artifacts to check out. While there’s not a lot of depth to the exhibits here in terms of quantity, I still think it’s well worth a visit given how exceptional these few exhibits are.

Viking Ship Museum
Viking Ship Museum, Oslo, Norway.

In my opinion, the major draw to the museum are the two viking ships: The Oseberg and the Gokstad. Both of these are exceptionally preserved ships from the Viking era.

The Viking Era extended from around 800 to 1050 AD and during this time the Vikings perfected building ships known as “long ships.” These were long wooden ships that utilized both oars and cloth sails. They were light ships built for speed and designed with a wide and shallow hull that was ideal for navigating shallow rivers but could also navigate the high seas. This gave the Vikings great flexibility when exploring or raiding villages, allowing them to quickly make their way inland even through shallow waters.

The ships were unrivaled for centuries and allowed the Vikings to flourish in both battle and trade until the arrival of the “cog vessel” which were taller and more robust boats that eventually outlasted the long ship.

The first viking ship that you’ll encounter when you enter the museum is the beautiful Oseberg ship. On 8 August 1903, a farmer named Oskar Rom discovered ship remains and notified archaeologist Gabriel Gustafson. Gustafson quickly realized these were the remains from the Viking era and excavation of the ship remains began as soon as practically possible.

Professor Gabriel Gustafson and the crew.  Photo: Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo/ Olaf Væring.

The excavation became a bit of spectacle and although the excavation work took only three months, it took 21 years to restore the ship. Today over 90 per cent of the reconstructed Oseberg ship consists of the original timber.

If you’re like me, when you first enter the museum, you’ll be struck by the size of the ship. It’s quite an imposing sight.

Viking Ship Museum
Viking Ship Museum — Oseberg ship.

Each ship is set in the middle of each corridor, so yo can get a full 360º view of the ship as you walk around the exhibit.

Viking Ship Museum
Viking Ship Museum — Oseberg ship.

The ship was much larger than I’d envisioned. To better appreciate the scale of the ships, step into the viewing balconies and take a view from a higher perspective, where you’ll also be able to look inside the deck.

Viking Ship Museum
Viking Ship Museum — Oseberg ship.

You’ll be able to clearly see the planks that make up the deck. In many ships, these were removable which made it easy to store food and cargo beneath them.

Viking Ship Museum
Viking Ship Museum — Oseberg ship.

In addition to the size of the ship, the carvings made on the ship are beautiful. Both the prow and stern are carved with intricate animal ornamentation, which ends in a spiraling “serpent’s head.” The Museum states that “such an ornately decorated ship has undoubtedly been reserved for special members of the aristocracy.”

Viking Ship Museum
Detailed carvings on the Oseberg ship.

It’s really hard to get over the level of detail found on these ships.

Viking Ship Museum
Detailed carvings on the Oseberg ship.

The closer you inspect the ship, the more you realize that this was just as much a work of art as it was an exceptional vessel.

Viking Ship Museum
Detailed carvings on the Oseberg ship.

Although these ships are beautiful, they’re also a bit eerie to me. I can only imagine the horror that so many people felt as they saw these giant serpent heads appearing over the horizon and heading right towards their village.

Viking Ship Museum
Detailed carvings on the Oseberg ship.

There are 15 oar holes on each side so the ship could have had 30 oarsmen in addition to a helmsman and a lookout. The oars on display were made of pine and even showed traces of painted decorations. Since they don’t show any signs of wear, it’s thought that the oars were specifically placed there for burial purposes.

While the oars are made of pine, the ship was made with oak, around the year 820.  Each of the 12 wooden planks (or “strakes”) on either side overlaps the one below and they are fixed into place with iron rivets.

Viking Ship Museum
Viking Ship Museum — Oseberg ship.

Two women were buried with the Oseberg. Although there’ still a lot of mystery surrounding who they were, it’s clear they held high importance in society. Not only were they buried with this intricately decorated ship, their graves also were filled with other items including:

  • Clothes, shoes and combs
  • Ship’s equipment
  • Kitchen utensils
  • Farm tools
  • Three ornate sleighs and a working sleigh
  • A cart
  • Five carved animal heads
  • Five beds
  • Two tents.
  • Fifteen horses
  • Six dogs
  • Two small cows

Some of these artifacts are found in the museum. Most notably, is the Oseberg cart.

Viking Ship Museum
Viking Ship Museum — The Oseberg cart.

Even before it was buried, the cart was already old and it’s thought that it was possibly built before 800. The back of the cart is decorated with cats, which some believe was inspired by the cats that drew the cart of Frøya, the goddess of fertility. The front of the cart depicts a man being attacked by serpent, which could be an reference to the tale of Gunnar in the snake pit, another familiar story for the Vikings.

Viking Ship Museum
Viking Ship Museum — The Oseberg cart.

Other interesting artifacts include the carvings and tools which are on display. The animal heads on display show incredible detail that must have only been done by some of the most skilled carvers at the time. It’s not 100% clear what they were used for, but they clearly evince the artistry that we typically don’t associate with the Vikings.

Viking Ship Museum
Viking Ship Museum animal head wood carving.
Viking Ship Museum
Viking Ship Museum artifacts.

The other major attraction at the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo is the Gokstad. This ship was also discovered on a farm. In the fall of 1879 two teenage sons were apparently trying to pass time on a farm and decided to just start digging into a mound known as the “King’s Mound” to see if they could find anything exciting and… well, they discovered a viking ship.

Viking Ship Museum
The Gokstad Ship.

The Gokstad ship  — known as the world’s best preserved viking ship — was built around 890 AD, at the height of the Viking period. This was a fast and maneuverable ship that could sail at over 12 knots and suited for voyages taken out on the high seas.The ship is made of oak, and is 5.18 m wide and 23.22 m long and even larger that the Oseberg.

For me, it’s amazing to look closely at these ships. There something about seeing the fine details in everyday ancient objects like iron rivets that fascinates me. To know that you’re looking at piece of metal work that some unnamed viking pounded out over 1,000 years ago is pretty cool. It’s also just mind-blowing to see the state of preservation of these ships close up.

Close up of the Oseberg ship at the Viking Ship Museum.
Viking Ship Museum
Close up of the Oseberg ship at the Viking Ship Museum.

There are also some of the smaller boats on display, too. I believe that these were also found at the burial mounds along with the larger ships.

Viking Ship Museum Oslo Norway
The Viking Ship Museum.
Viking Ship Museum
The Viking Ship Museum.

There’a s number of other artifacts to check out but in an effort to not spoil everything for readers, I don’t like to include everything.

Once you’re finally through with all of the amazing historical stuff, head back up to the front where you’ll find a small gift shop.

Viking Ship Museum
Viking Ship Museum gift shop.

Getting to the Viking Ship Museum in Norway

Although the Viking Ship Museum is not in the heart of Oslo, it’s relatively easy to get to. We took the bus to the museum and it was only a few stops out of the way. From the city center you’ll take a bus (number 30) to the Vikingskipene Station, which is just like a minute away from the museum. You can read more about directions on how to get there here.

The Museum operated with the following hours:

  • 1 May – 30 September 09:00 – 18:00
  • 1 October – 30 April 10:00 – 16:00

Tickets for adults are 100NOK, which is about $12 USD, which is easily worth it if you ask me.

Also, consider getting an Oslo city pass here that covers entry into many museums and also covers public transportation. Olso is packed with fantastic museums like the National Gallery, the Norwegian Folk Museum, the Nobel Peace Center, and many more.

Final word

The Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, Norway, is a bit small and it doesn’t offer you floors upon floors of exhibits like you might find at a larger museum. But the main exhibits found here are as fascinating as can be. Getting up close to these viking ships was one of the coolest things I did while in Oslo, and I definitely think this museum is worth a visit.

Update on the Airlines Laptop Ban for Europe

We still don’t know exactly what’s going to happen with the new laptop/electronics ban set to go into effect for flights departing Europe and arriving in the US but we have somewhat of an idea of what’s going on. In case you haven’t been keeping track, here’s a quick refresher.

In March 2017, both the US and the UK implemented bans for all large electronics which included:

  • Laptops
  • Tablets
  • E-readers
  • Cameras
  • Portable DVD players
  • Electronic game units larger than a smartphone
  • Travel printers/scanners

These bans affected several Middle Eastern and Northern Africa countries. Curiously, the US applied the ban to Qatar, Emirates, and Etihad, while the UK exempted them. This made many question the motives behind the ban and many saw this as a form of protectionism.

About a month later, rumors started swirling about the ban going into effect for European countries and this past week, we heard from reliable sources that the ban was imminent.

However, European countries (along with airlines) have pushed back on implementing this ban. They’ve argued that its unsafe to hold so many lithium batteries in the cargo hold where they might be susceptible to igniting and there will nobody there to put out the fire. Even aviation organizations are in agreement with this concern.

It seems like Homeland Security is at least listening to the EU since they’ve been discussing these issues over the phone and the EU has invited U.S. officials to Brussels next week in order “to jointly assess the potential risks and review future measures.”

So that’s the good news. There’s some exchange happening and the US DHS appears to be listening . However, sources indicate that the decision to implement the ban to flights from Europe has already been made and the airlines are “just waiting on the order.” So it seems like it’s just a matter of when it’s going to happen and not if  it’s going to happen. The fact that Delta even put out a sign stating a new ban was going into effect on May 12th is telling, as well.

As for the official word, the Department of Homeland Security is still offering generic responses about the ban:

“No final decisions have been made on expanding the restriction on large electronic devices in aircraft cabins; however, it is under consideration. DHS continues to evaluate the threat environment and will make changes when necessary to keep air travelers safe.”

Although one can always hope that discussions with the EU lead to an alternative outcome, I’m fully expecting for this ban to be officially announced within the next week or two. It might come with some limited exceptions or be less encompassing as the ban targeted towards the Middle East, but I think it’s going to be in place soon.

Why are they putting this ban in place?

Multiple sources reported that intelligence is showing that terrorists are continuing to target airlines flying to the United States. The Washing Post previously stated that “[a]n unidentified person familiar with the issue has told The Washington Post that officials have long been worried by a Syrian terrorist group that is trying to build bombs inside electronic devices that are hard to detect.”

But The New York Times has stated that “the Trump administration maintained that the new restrictions did not signal a credible, specific threat of an imminent attack.

I don’t doubt at all that intelligence shows there’s a credible threat from terrorists that they will use laptops as explosives. And  as I’ve reiterated before, I’m not a counter-terrorism expert and I’m not privy to discussions on national security with government officials, so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

However, the efficacy of this policy seems highly questionable for a number of reasons, including:

  • A terrorist could still bring these laptop bombs on to an aircraft from another country or simply enter the US and then try their luck with getting through TSA since TSA had up to a 95% failure rate for detecting weapons and fake bombs.
  • Bombs can still go off in the cargo hold
  • The risk of fires in the hold due to lithium batteries

The ban does seem to restrict or limit a terrorist’s ability to bring about an attack, but I don’t think it’s enough to eliminate the threat from a more “determined” terrorist. In the end, I think this is more of a security screening issue and would love to see new policies for screening laptops instead of an all-out ban. However, for the time being, that doesn’t seem likely.

Hopefully, I’ll be surprised and something positive will come out of the discussions with the EU next week, but I remain pessimistic about this.

As Passengers, Let’s Pick Our Battles

Let me preface this by saying that this article is in no way a defense of the recent shenanigans that we’ve seen from the legacy carriers: United, American, and Delta. Thanks to social media, over the past few weeks, we’ve seen a number of instances that have underscored major issues that the airlines need to address. These include:

  • Failures to implement common-sense protocol/problem-solving (it’s time to let people go to the freaking bathroom when there’s an emergency)
  • Inability to diffuse situations without them blowing up (crew members need to acquire better negotiating skills)
  • Drastic measures taken to respond to minor situations (“let’s kick (or drag) everyone off the plane!”)
  • Major PR failures when it comes to responding to these situations (Twitter 101 could’ve really helped some airlines)
  • A general attitude toward passengers that they are dispensable (passengers may move in herds but they aren’t animals)
  • Resorting or threatening to resort to law enforcement when there’s no cognizable security threat from an unhappy passenger

This last point is an issue that bothers me the most and I think it’s endemic to the airlines. It’s one of the major contributing factors to why we have thousands of people running scared through airports and walking on egg shells since they are afraid of any sort of confrontations with crew members.

We’ve already seen airlines working to change some of these things. United has vowed to change several of their policies, such as limiting the use of law enforcement when there is no security threat. American showed they were capable of responding to a PR disaster by taking responsibility for a situation. While those are steps in the right direction, we’ve still got quite a ways to go.

But as the “tide” begins to shift, I think a lot of passengers are starting to feel more empowered, especially with the threat of broadcasting crew member/law enforcement misconduct across the world via social media.

This is a both a good and a bad thing.

It’s a good thing because we might finally get to a point where passengers aren’t constantly running scared through airports, often horrified by the thought of a confrontation with a crew member since it will inevitably involve the threat of bringing in law enforcement. This “private security/mafia style” approach to handling customer service disputes is abysmal and needs to end for the betterment of travelers everywhere.

As more and more episodes of misconduct are broadcasted to the world, airlines will (hopefully) devote more resources to ensure that they don’t become the next viral story of passenger injustice and this could lead to a better passenger experience.

But this new empowerment can be a bad thing as we all know some passengers can be unreasonably stubborn at times. And this is what I wanted to talk about.

I think we need to start picking our battles more wisely as we travel.

Let’s take one more look at the Dr. Dao situation. I know some will take issue with me pointing this out, but let’s be 100% honest, the entire situation could have been avoided if Dr. Dao just got up and stepped off the plane. Yes, I understand it wasn’t fair or justified what happened to him and the actions by United and the officers involved were reprehensible. But from a practical standpoint, the entire situation would’ve never happened if Dr. Dao just chose to step off the plane.

After the “Dragging seen around the world” took place, I read people saying how “that could’ve been me.” But I couldn’t have felt more different. I know with 99.999% certainty that if I were in that situation I would’ve stepped off the plane when asked. I would’ve been upset about the inconvenience, probably voiced that on social media, and (as an attorney) possibly even looked into my legal rights after I was off the plane.

But, even on my worst day, I wouldn’t have sat in my seat and told them that they’d have to take me to jail to get me off the plane.

Again, let me be clear, this is not a defense on any level for United. And it’s not even an attempt to place blame on Dr. Dao for what happened to him. Nobody would’ve expected to be beat and dragged off the plane and he certainly didn’t deserve that treatment.

I just don’t see the need to cause a protracted confrontation in that type of situation. In other words, I don’t see why you would pick that battle. 

By doing so, you’re likely going to cause a delay to your flight and possibly other flights. You’re also going to cause a lot of grief to other passengers, the crew, and so on.

Just imagine if they had eventually peacefully removed Dr. Dao off the plane after an hour and a half. Would a protracted stand-off been worth it?

I think situations that warrant these type of “stand-off” confrontations with crew members should involve more egregious behavior than being told you were randomly selected to give up your seat. For example, maybe you see a crew member exhibiting blatant racist behavior or making disparaging remarks to someone based on their religion.

In these situations, I see the justification in taking a stand since it’s a matter of personal dignity. And in that respect, I think it mirrors how we should respond when we witness injustices like prejudice, homophobia, etc. in the general public. We should act for the sake of a greater good and a better society by voicing our protest, even if it comes at a cost.

But when a crew member asks you to do something (mostly) reasonable like get off a plane or give up a carry-on to be checked, let’s tap the brakes before jumping into “you’re going to have to carry me off this f***** plane!” mode.

Even if the treatment is unfair or the airline is not following procedure the way you believe they should be, unless there’s some kind of egregious conduct taking place, I think we, as passengers, should just relax and take actions that won’t inconvenience a few hundred other passengers who have nothing to do with our problem.

I’m not saying we should just be walked all over. A good example of how to handle these situations just happened yesterday with a blogger from Angelina Travels. Due to the ineptness of United, a blogger was told to give up her upgraded seat (which her boarding pass had clearly assigned to her). She was spoken to condescendingly and even asked to step off the flight.

She first responded by attempting to speak reason to the agent by explaining that she was aware of the upgrade policy and even offered to take a seat with a broken light. United was not accommodating, however, and ultimately told her she would have to get off the plane if she didn’t get out of her seat. Eventually, despite the poor handling by the crew, she decided it wasn’t worth getting kicked off the plane and took a seat back in economy.

I think this is how situations should play out. You try to deal with the situation by confronting the crew member and telling them your “side of the story.” (Hopefully, they will at least hear you out and not resort to being rude/condescending.) After some reasonable back and forth, you choose to go with an option that doesn’t cause a huge disruption for you and every other passenger. And afterwards, you let it all out in whichever way best suits you.

I also think the recent situation on a Delta flight was a good example of how to conduct yourself for the most part. There, a passenger tried to have one of his kids sit in a seat booked for his other child who took a different flight and thus didn’t check in. Because that kid was a no-show, Delta filled that seat with another passenger.

The father was not happy about it and got into a confrontation with a crew member. The exchange was pretty serious but not overly intense. Ultimately, in my view, the dad was in the wrong initially but Delta went wayyy overboard by telling the man his kids would be sent to a foster home if he didn’t comply (and then kicking him off the plane when he agreed to comply). In the end, the man and his family got off the plane and booked another flight. Delta soon apologized for how poorly they handled the situation.

My point here is that as passengers we should do our part in minimizing unnecessary protracted confrontations unless they are warranted. Sure, stand your ground, explain your situation, and try to work things out. But if the airline it not willing to budge, this may not be a battle worth fighting for the sake of all of the other passengers you might affect.

Learning to pick battles is especially important for travelers. On any given trip, you encounter so many people from different walks of life trying to accomplish different things, that’s it’s expected that you might run into some confrontation of some sort. Someone cuts you in line. You get a rude or uninformed customer service. Etc., etc.

When in Norway I once bought a train ticket that I suspected may not have been the right one. When I inquired with an agent (who spoke great English) she informed me that it’d be just fine for my route. Turns out, it wasn’t and I ended up having to pay for the ride again (after dealing with an obnoxiously rude staff member who seemed to think I was trying to get a free ride).

I could’ve blown up on that second guy and I felt like doing it. But why? What would that accomplish? So I gave him the “yeah, yeah, whatever…” slipped my card through the reader and was off and into the airport within seconds. I soon let go of the situation and was off to my next destination.

I guess my final point here is that airlines have a lot of work to do. First and foremost they need to learn how to treat human beings with common sense and compassion. At the same time, we should not go around adding fuel to the fire by resorting to unnecessary stand-offs for minor infractions and waiting to pounce on any perceived wrong by crew members and have it blown up. Voice your complaints, yes. Try to work things out, yes. But for the sake of everyone who might be affected, let’s do our part to pick our battles.

How to Pool Hilton Honors Points

In April of 2017, Hilton released one of the best changes to its Hilton Honors program: “points pooling.” Many hotel loyalty programs force you to jump through hoops to transfer points or restrict who you can transfer points to (i.e., only family or household members).

Other times you’re forced to pay expensive transfer fees or deal with low caps on the number of points you can transfer in a year. Thankfully, Hilton Honors has made some great strides when it comes to sharing points and the process is very straight forward.

There are a few rules for pooling for points that you should be aware of:

Rule for pooling points

  • Hilton Honors members can combine their points with up to 10 family and friends for no cost. (That means that a total of 11 individuals can pool their points together.)
  • There is no limit to the number of pools you can be a member to.
  • You can use pooled points for any type of award (even for things other than hotel stays).
  • You can transfer a minimum of 1,000 points and a maximum of 500,000 Points into a pool in a calendar year.
  • A member can receive up to 2 million points in a calendar year.
  • To use points pooling, you must be an active member, be in the program for 30 days, and have a minimum Points balance of 1,000 Points.
  • The transferred or pooled points will be available for use at the time of transfer, but allow up to 24 hours for pooled points to show up when you log in to your account.

This is a tremendous perk that makes earning enough points for your redemptions much easier. The ability to receive up to 2 million points is well above what some other hotel programs allow and the fact that you can share points with both family and friends makes this a true no “non-sense” feature where you don’t have to get into faxing proof of residency and other annoying and time-consuming things.

The one thing that might trip some people up is that their account needs to be active for 30 days and have a minimum points balance of 1,000 points. It’s not too difficult to earn 1,000 Hilton Honors points but these requirements are definitely something to be aware of.

How do you pool Hilton Honors points?

On that page, you’ll see fields to enter up to 10 email addresses and names. You do not have to input their Hilton Honors number.

Once you’ve entered the email addressed, click on “Create my pool and send invitations.” You should receive a confirmation email that your invitation has been sent and the recipients should receive an email (within minutes) that contains a link to the sign-in page for points pooling.  At that point, the recipient of the invitation will be prompted to transfer their points to you. On a mobile device, the screen will look like this:

However, if you want to transfer your points to that person you just invited just have them disregard that prompt and log off after they sign-in, since your accounts will now be linked and ready for pooling. Then you just need to go to “Transfer” which you’ll find on the left side of the webpage, as seen below.

You can also access the transfer screen by clicking on “Points” on the Hilton homepage and then clicking on “Buy, Gift, Pool & Transfer” on the left sidebar. Once there, click “Transfer” and you should be taken to the transfer screen. (Note: this page has given me errors a number of times so it might still be a little bit glitchy since it just rolled out.)

Once there, you’ll be prompted to enter their information like their name, email address, and Hilton Honors account number.

The transfer should be instant but as stated it could take up to 24 hours to process.

Final word

I didn’t like that Hilton decided to do away with its published award charts but the addition of points pooling was definitely a plus. This is going to make it much easier to accumulate the necessary number of points for a lot of people and it helps that it’s so simple to use.

The Laptop Ban Might Be Extended to Flights from Europe

In March, both the US and the UK implemented laptop bans for flights departing from several countries in the Middle East. Interestingly, we saw the UK exempt Qatar and the United Arab Emirates from this ban, allowing for the “big three” Middle Eastern airlines Qatar, Emirates, and Etihad to continue to operate flights to the UK un affected.

The fact that the US included the big three casted doubt on the intentions of the laptop ban. Many speculated that the motivation for including Qatar and the United Arab Emirates in this policy stemmed at least in part, from an attempt to limit competition to the big three US legacy carriers: United, Delta, and American. This seemed even more possible considering that AUH airport has a US Pre-Clearance security terminal but still was affected by the ban.

Well, now, those suspicions may not be as warranted as many thought. There are very credible rumors that the US might be announcing that the laptop ban will soon extend to flights from Europe. This is hugely upsetting and seems like it will cause substantially more disruption than the prior ban targeting Middle East countries.

Many (including IATA) still question the efficacy of these policies, as it still seems like there are workarounds for terrorists (travel to different continent, set up device in US, design remote control, etc.) and there may even be risks with holding so many batteries in the cargo hold (where it would be harder to put out a fire). I can’t pretend to be a counter-terrorism expert here but on its face this ban just feels to be very “knee-jerkish.”

My biggest concern isn’t boredom on a plane. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not gong to be fun not being able to get work done on my MacBook and it’s really going to sting when/if I’m no longer able to take high quality DSLR photos of the different cabins we fly in for UponArriving.

But what worries me the most is the security for personal belongings. More passengers are going to have to risk having their electronics lost, stolen, or damaged. Everything from laptops to expensive cameras are going to be at risk. And even top cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve only cover damage to electronics up to $500that’s not even 1/3 of the value of one of my camera lenses. So I’m not sure who, if anyone, would pick up the tab in the event a valuable electronic is damaged.

Business travelers with classified or sensitive data stored on their computers may be forced to pass on flying or take up inconvenient routes through Canada or Latin America. While airlines may try to follow the lead of how some of the Middle Eastern carriers have tried to deal with the ban by offering iPads and laptops, I honestly don’t see airlines like United, American, and Delta offering anything like that.

There’s still no official word out yet. But rumors are swirling that an announcement could arrive as soon as Wednesday as US officials are weighing the advantages of expanding the ban against the possible impact on passengers.

Should I Get a Hotel Credit Card?

Is it worth it to get a hotel credit card? My answer to that questions is generally yes, but there are a few factors to think about before putting in that application, such as the type of sign-up bonus you need and what type of hotel perks you’re interested in. In this article, I’ll take a closer look at some of the factors that you’d want to consider.

Update: Some offers are no longer available — click here for the latest deals!

The basics

When you get a “hotel credit card” you’re applying for a co-branded card issued by a bank that’s worked out a partnership with that particular hotel loyalty program. Typically, only a single bank will partner with a hotel loyalty program but that’s not always the case (see: Citi, American Express, and Hilton).

You can use these hotel credit cards at any merchants so you don’t have to limit your purchases to those made with the hotel. They are just like any other credit card when it comes to buying things.

Hotel cards are different from airline credit cards in that many offer you bonus earning potential for categories like restaurants, airlines, rental cars, etc. With each purchase, you’ll typically earn a hand full of points on hotel purchases with that respective hotel, 2 to 3 bonus points on bonus categories, and then fewer points on everyday purchases. Because the value of hotel points varies more than airline miles do, it’s really important to have a sense of how valuable the hotel points are (more on that below)

If you sign up for a hotel credit card before you created a loyalty account or simply don’t provide your loyalty number on your application, a new account will often be created for you and that’s where your miles will go. If you accidentally end up opening more than one account, just call customer service for the hotel and it’s usually not a problem to get the accounts merged.

Penthouse level view from the Hilton Cabana Miami Beach.

Flexibility vs other cards

One of the drawbacks to hotel credit cards is that you’re typically only earning points for that hotel’s loyalty program (Marriott/SPG excluded). So for example, if you sign up for the Hyatt Card, you’re only earning World of Hyatt points that can only be used on Hyatt properties.

This can be disadvantageous because other cards can offer you much more flexibility with the types of points earned. For example, with the Chase Sapphire Preferred you could earn Ultimate Rewards and transfer those out to an array of hotel partners including Hyatt, IHG, and Marriott/Ritz-Carlton. 

This is why I highly value cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Being able to transfer out points to a variety of partners can make finding free nights a much easier task.

What kind of perks are you after?

The major perks of hotel credit cards are:

  • Sign-up bonuses: points and free night certificates
  • Free anniversary nights
  • Elite status
  • Bonus categories

Sign up bonuses

Most Hotel credit cards will offer you a sign-up bonus for points after you spend a certain amount on purchases within 90 days or 3 months of account opening. It’s really important to get an idea of what the different hotel points are worth because there can be some pretty drastic differences in their respective value.

For example, SPG points are worth around 2.4 cents per point while Hilton Honors points may only be around .4 cents per point. This is why you shouldn’t pursue a hotel credit card based solely on the number in its sign-up bonus. Besides researching point value, a good way to gauge the worth of a hotel’s currency (and thus sign-up bonus) is to search different cities for hotels and see how many nights you’d be able to book after earning a specific sign-up bonus.

Not all hotel credit cards offer you points for sign-up bonuses, however. Some cards, such as the Citi® Hilton Honors™ Reserve Card offer you free night certificates.

The difference between points and free night certificates is that the points normally offer you more flexibility in that you can stretch them further by using them on lower tier properties. Also, sometimes the free nights come with restrictions, such as only being valid on weekend nights or at properties of a certain category. Keep in mind that unlike points, these free night certificates usually expire within 12 months.

As a general rule of thumb, sign-up bonuses offering free night certificates (like the Hyatt Card) offer you the best potential to maximize value by redeeming them at top properties that can go for $1,000 or more a night. (Although this isn’t always the case.)

The sign-up offers for hotel credit cards are constantly in flux. We see the sign-up bonuses go up and down and so it’s really important that you know how to find the best credit offers to make sure you’re not jumping on a subpar offer.

Free anniversary nights

Many hotel credit cards offer free anniversary nights for their perks. These almost always come with category restrictions and often cannot be used at top hotels (the major exception to this rule is the IHG Card which offers a free anniversary night at any IHG property).

Typically, you receive the free night after you’ve held the card for 12 months and paid your annual fee (or had it officially waived by the bank). After that you need to redeem the free night certificate within 12 months or it will expire. Most hotels require you to book and stay in the hotel within those 12 months, but you should always verify what the current policy is with whatever loyalty program is offering you the benefit. Also, know that these free night certificates may not be transferrable to other people.

Here are some examples of cards that offer free anniversary nights:

  • IHG Rewards Credit Card: Free anniversary night that’s good for any IHG property
  • Hyatt Credit Card: 1 free night at any Category 1-4 property
  • Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card: Free anniversary night each year at category 1 through 5 hotels

Keep in mind that sometimes in order to receive the free anniversary night you may have to do some spending. For example, the Citi® Hilton Honors™ Reserve Card allows you to earn a free anniversary night after you spend $10,000 in a cardmember year.

Overall, these anniversary benefits are key factors to look at when trying to decide if you should keep your card or not. Often these hotel credit cards come with low annual fees and the free anniversary nights make it very easy to more than cover the cost of your annual fee.

Elite status

One of the most common perks offered by hotel credit cards is elite status.

For your average hotel credit card, you’re typically given lower mid-tier status (2 tiers away from the top elite status). For example, the Hyatt card offers you Hyatt Discoverist and the Marriott Premier Rewards Card offers you Marriott Silver Status. However, some cards offer you the higher mid-tier status, such as the Hilton HHonors™ Surpass® Card from American Express which offers you Hilton Honors Gold Status and the Ritz-Carlton Rewards Credit Card which offers you Marriott/Ritz-Carlton Gold (the first year).

You can usually bump up the status offered by the credit card by spending a certain amount of money on the card each year. For example, by spending $30,000 within a calendar year on your Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express, you can bump up from SPG Silver Status to SPG Preferred Gold Status.

Typically, these mid-tier elite levels provide you with benefits like free breakfasts, wifi, late checkout, and upgrades, among other benefits.

Before jumping on hotel cards to earn status, make sure you’ve explored other options for obtaining status. Cards like the The Platinum Card® from American Express offer automatic SPG Gold (and therefore Marriott Gold) and Hilton Honors Gold and can often be a more practical way to become elite.

Utilizing credit cards for status can make it much easier to climb the elite status ladder with some programs. For example, using the Platinum status offered by the IHG card, we were able to obtain Hilton Diamond status with one hotel stay. Also, once you get to mid-tier status, you can explore status challenge opportunities to get to top tier status, such as Marriott Platinum Status or SPG Platinum Status.

Suite at the Marriott Renaissance Hotel Downtown Phoenix.

What kind of bonus earning potential?

Many hotel cards offer bonus categories for airlines, restaurants, and car rental purchases. It’s important to note that the hotel’s credit card is not always the best credit card to use to earn points for that program.

For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve earns 3X on dining while the Marriott Premier Rewards Card earns 2X on dining. You could always transfer your Chase Ultimate Rewards earned by your Chase Sapphire Reserve over to Marriott so it would not make sense to put dining on your Marriott card if you had both cards.

This is why many people will often hold a card with a major rewards program like Chase for their everyday spend and also hold a hotel card for the specific perks offered by that card.

Transfer program partners?

The other major factor you want to look into is what reward programs transfer to that hotel.

Unlike airlines which transfer 1:1 in most cases, hotels can be much different. For example, American Express Membership Rewards transfers at the following ratios:

  • Hilton HHonors (1,000 points = 1,500 HHonors points)
  • SPG (Starwood Preferred Guest) (1,000 points = 333 Starpoints)

Meanwhile, Chase transfers 1:1 to all of its hotel partners.

I try to avoid transferring my points to hotel programs outside of Hyatt or Marriott because I often don’t get great value and could do better by booking through a travel portal. However, you should always check what kind of value you’d get from your points for your specific booking since it can vary.

Final word

Hotel credit cards can be great options. They can help provide you with very valuable sign-up bonuses, elite status perks, and free anniversary nights that more than cover the cost of the annual fee. Before applying make sure you’re aware of the value of the sign-up bonus and your potential alternatives.

Should I Get An Airline Credit Card?

One of the most common questions I get is “Is it worth it to get an airline credit card?” My answer to that questions is generally yes, but there are a few factors to think about before putting in that application, such as the type of flexibility you need and what type of perks you’re interested in. In this article, I’ll take a closer look at some of the factors that you’d want to consider.

Update: Some offers are no longer available — click here for the latest deals!

The basics

First, the basics. When you get an “airline credit card” you’re applying for a co-branded card issued by a bank that’s worked out a partnership with that respective airline. Typically, only a single bank will partner with an airline but that’s not always the case (see: Citi, Barclaycard, and American Airlines).  The airline cards that I often focus on are cards issued by Bank of America, Citi, Chase, American Express, and Barclaycard, although there are many others.

You can use these airline credit cards at any merchants and you don’t have to limit your purchases to those made with the airline. They are just like any other credit card when it comes to buying things. With each purchase, you’ll typically earn one or two miles for that airline and those miles will usually show up in your account after your monthly statement closes. Also, those miles usually won’t expire as long as you remain a cardmember.

If you sign up for an airline card before you created a frequent flyer account or simply don’t provide your frequent flyer number on your application, a new account will often be created for you and that’s where your miles will go. If you accidentally end up opening more than one account, just call customer service for the airline and it’s usually not a problem to get the accounts merged.

Flexibility vs other cards

One of the drawbacks to airline credit cards is that you’re only earning miles for that airline’s frequent flyer program. So for example, if you sign up for a Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite MasterCard® you’re only earning miles for American Airlines. This isn’t as bad as it sounds since you can still use those miles for oneworld partners like Qatar, Cathay Pacific, and other partners like Etihad.

Book Etihad with AA miles.

Still, other cards offer you much more flexibility with the types of points earned. For example, with the Chase Sapphire Preferred you could earn Ultimate Rewards and transfer those out to an array of excellent partners including Southwest, Korean, Singapore, British Airways, United, etc. That also provides you with the possibility of redeeming miles on all three major airline alliances, such as: Star Alliance, oneworld, and SkyTeam.

This is why I highly value cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred. Being able to transfer out points to a variety of partners can make finding award seats and planning for trips 10X more practical. It’s also nice being able to mix up the airlines you fly with and try new products, especially if you’re into business class and first class travel.

What kind of perks are you after?

The major perks of airline credit cards are valuable sign-up bonuses and benefits like priority boarding and lounge access. Depending on what tier of card you’re going for, these benefits can vary dramatically.

No annual fee

No annual fee versions come with virtually no benefits and are typically obtained after a downgrade from a standard version or premium version. You probably don’t want to go around shopping for these and so I won’t discuss them here.

“Standard” version cards

Standard version cards come with benefits similar to elite-status, such as priority boarding and free checked baggage. They typically come with additional perks like mileage rebates, anniversary/spend bonuses, a lounge pass, companion pass or something similar. The annual fees for these cards are often around $95 and are sometimes waived for the first year. If you fly with the respective airline just a hand full of times a year, the perks on these cards can easily pay for themselves.

These type of airlines credit cards are often the best options for many people. They also typically come with the highest sign-up bonuses (although that’s not always the case). These sign-up bonuses often fluctuate throughout the year so it’s vital that you know how to find the best credit offers are for them.

Examples of these type of airline cards are:

  • Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite MasterCard®
  • United Mileage Plus Explorer Card
  • Chase Southwest Card
  • AAdvantage® Aviator Red World Elite Mastercard®
  • Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card from American Express

Premium versions

The premium versions come with lounge access to the airline’s lounges and their alliance partners (subject to exceptions), which can often be worth over $550. They also often ways to earn elite qualifying miles like the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite MasterCard®, which allows you to earn 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles after you spend $40,000 in purchases within the year. Since these cards are so benefit-heavy, their sign-up bonuses are often lackluster but their bonus earnings can be better. For example, the United MileagePlus Club Card offers 1.5X per $1 spent on all other purchases compared to 1X with the standard card.

IAH United Lounge.

I don’t typically recommend the premium cards to most people since you usually need to be a frequent flyer with a certain program to take advantage of the lounge access and elite qualifying benefits. Most people I help out are just interested in whatever airport lounge access is convenient for them  a few times a year and often the best options for them are the The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

What kind of bonus earning potential?

Typically the “standard” cards will offer you 2X on purchases made with the airlines. For example, the Citi Platinum Select offers 2 AAdvantage® miles for every $1 spent on American Airlines purchases and 1X on everything else. The United MileagePlus Explorer Card also offers 2X per $1 spent on tickets purchased from United.
Unless you’re trying to earn elite qualifying benefits, you’ve got to be careful about putting your spend on airline cards since it’s often possible to utilize cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Platinum Card from American Express to earn many more points on travel purchases. If you were trying to earn points for United, for example, you would probably be better off earning 2X or 3X Ultimate Rewards with a Chase Sapphire card and then transferring your Ultimate Rewards to United.
This is why many people will often hold a card with a major rewards program like Chase or American Express for their everyday spend and also hold a card with an airline or two for the unique perks offered by that specific airline card.

 Alliance and partners

You should definitely be aware of what airline alliance the airline belongs to before getting its card. If you don’t know what their partners are or even what alliance they belong to, I submit that you’re likely not ready to sign up for that card and need to do some more research.

Keep in mind that airlines often have partners from their alliance and then unique partnerships with other airlines. For example, American is in the oneworld alliance but it also partners with Etihad and United is in the Star Alliance but it also partners with Aer Lingus. Sometimes these partnerships offer even better redemption possibilities than the major alliances, so it’s a good idea to be aware of them.

Transfer program partners?

The other major factor you want to look into is what reward programs transfer to that airline.

I think this is really important for certain airlines, such as American. They have no major bank partner that earns transferrable points (i.e., no Amex, Citi, Chase, etc.). Instead, you mostly accumulate AA miles with Citi and Barclaycard (SPG does allow you transfer points).

Once you realize that you’re earning potential for AA miles is fairly limited, you’ll realize why you’d need to apply for an AA card instead of a card that earns transferrable points, even though the latter offers more flexibility. Another similar example is Alaska Airlines and their cards issued by Bank of America. Alaska miles are very valuable but they are usually only earned with Bank of America cards or SPG cards.

On the flip side, sometimes you’ll want to supplement your earnings from an airline card. This is really easy to do with Delta and Untied. For Delta, American Express offers a number of different personal and business cards you could get to earn Delta SkyMiles. For United, Chase offers a personal and business Chase card that both come with good sign-up bonuses and then you could utilize bonuses from cards like the Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve to supplement your United miles. If you’re planning to book segments in business class or first class, being able to supplement your mileage balances might prove to be necessary.

Final word

Airline credit cards can be very valuable. The key is to analyze what other points you could earn in place of those miles to see if you’d be better off with a card earning transferrable points. On top of that, you need to think about the perks you’re interested in and make sure that if you’re going for a sign-up bonus, it’s the best one offered for that card. And remember, it often makes more sense to earn points with everyday spend on a different card while holding on to an additional airline card for the special perks.

What Are The Benefits of SPG Platinum Status?

SPG Platinum status offers an extensive range of valuable hotel and airline benefits that can enhance your travels both in the sky and when you stay at a Starwood Preferred Guest property. Here’s a rundown of some the benefits you can expect to enjoy when you obtain SPG Platinum status. 

How to earn SPG Platinum status

You can earn Platinum status in a few ways: 

  • Complete 25 eligible stays or 50 eligible nights in a calendar year.
  • Complete a status challenge from SPG Gold to SPG Platinum (you can automatically hit SPG Gold status by holding the The Platinum Card® from American Express). 
  • Earn Marriott Platinum status and link your SPG account to automatically become Platinum. You could do this by completing a Marriott status challenge or by spending $75,000 in a calendar year on the Ritz-Carlton Rewards card.

Marriott Platinum/United Silver status

If you hit SPG Platinum you’ll be given Marriott Platinum status that comes with many of the same benefits as SPG Platinum like complimentary breakfasts, lounge access, better upgrades (which include suites), etc. One of the best perks of Marriott Platinum is that you’re also given United MileagePlus Premier Silver elite status, which can offer you complimentary upgrades to both economy plus and first class and benefits like priority boarding and free checked luggage.

United first class on the 737.

5th night free

This benefit is not exclusive to Platinum status but it’s still worth mentioning. When you redeem Starpoints for five free night awards, SPG will cover the fifth night. This is available for any of their Category 3-7 hotels. 

Bonus earning rate

  • Earn three Starpoints for every U.S. dollar spent on eligible stays — a 50% bonus over Preferred.

This is the same earning rate as SPG Gold. (However, if you stay 75 nights or more this rate will bump up to 4 Starpoints per dollar spent.) At 2.4 cents per point, 3 SPG points per dollar spent, is like a 7.2% return. Compared to top tier status with other major hotel programs like Marriott, Hilton, IHG, and Hyatt, this rate is actually one of the lowest. 

Late check out

  • 4 PM late checkout, subject to availability.

4 PM late checkout can make your trip to the airport much less stressful by giving you plenty of time to relax in your room before having to pack. This benefit is guaranteed at all hotels, except at resorts, conference centers, and convention hotels, where it is based upon availability. Both Marriott and SPG are great about honoring this benefit, so I’m looking forward to them maintaining it as the merger between the two hotels completes. 


  • Platinum members receive upgrades to the best available rooms, including Standard Suites, subject to availability for the entire length of stay at time of check-in. Not offered at Aloft® or Element hotels.

Gold members receive upgrades to “enhanced rooms,” subject to availability, which are rooms on higher floors, corner rooms, newly renovated rooms and rooms with preferred views. However, as a Platinum member you should be upgraded to a suite if there is availability. If you’re interested in your odds for an upgrade simply search “[Your hotel name] upgrade flyertalk” and you’ll probably be able to get a good idea on others’ experiences with getting upgraded.

W Dubai suite.

Welcome Gift

  • Your choice of welcome gift upon arrival — choose from bonus Starpoints, continental breakfast or local amenity.

The major difference between this benefit and what you get with SPG Gold status is that Platinum offers you the option to take a complimentary breakfast. Sometimes you get to double up on these perks. For example, at the new W Las Vegas, I was offered two free breakfasts (one for me and one for Brad) in addition to two free drink coupons. All together it was a total of $60 worth of freebies. 

Free $15 drinks at the W.

The free breakfast perk for SPG Platinum is particularly valuable since they offer free breakfasts at even their most luxurious properties. Contrast this with Marriott who will often leave you hanging for breakfast at top properties.

Complimentary premium internet access

  • Complimentary in-room, premium Internet access when you book on SPG digital channels. (Preferred level does not get premium internet.) This is in addition to your welcome gift.

When a reservation is booked at any SPG-participating hotel through Starwood-branded websites (e.g., spg.com, Sheraton.com, Westin.com) or through the SPG app, all SPG members receive complimentary in-room Internet access. That means that you can get your complimentary internet and still request a free cocktail or bonus points as your welcome gift. However, if you made your booking through a website like Expedia.com (an OTA), you would not receive complimentary internet in addition to your gift.

Complimentary health-club, Club-level and Executive-level access.

  • Platinum members receive complimentary access to the Sheraton Club lounges, Westin Executive Club Lounges and Le Méridien lounges, where available.
Complimentary snacks and champagne at the Executive Club at the Westin Cape Town, South Africa.

Promo offers

While this isn’t officially discussed in the benefits on the SPG website, SPG has been known to send out special promotions to members with Gold or Platinum status and offer special discounts, such as 25% off redemptions.

Delta Crossover Rewards

SPG Gold and Platinum members can register to earn one Starpoint per dollar spent with Delta Crossover Rewards on eligible Delta flights. Also, if you are registered for Crossover Rewards and are a Delta Medallion member, in addition to earning Starpoints for Stays at SPG Participating Hotels, you will earn one Delta mile for every one U.S. dollar or its foreign equivalent spent on eligible SPG stays.

However, SPG Platinum members can receive exclusive additional elite benefits, such as:

  • Priority Check-in
  • Priority Boarding (up to 8 passengers)
  • Unlimited Complimentary Upgrades (First Class and Delta Comfort+)
  • First checked bag free (up to four passengers)

Register for Delta Crossover Rewards here

Your World Rewards with Emirates Skywards

Similar to Delta, Crossover Rewards, as a Platinum Member you can receive

  • Priority check-in,
  • Priority boarding
  • Complimentary e-gate access

Read more about the program here.

Also, SPG has a partnership with China Eastern where you can earn one Starpoint for every 4 China Easter miles earned. You’ll also be able to enjoy elite in-airport benefits, including priority check-in, boarding and luggage handling as well as an excess-luggage allowance and access to the China Eastern business-class lounge. Register for that benefit here.

Bonus earning for events

  • Earn one Starpoint for every US$2 in eligible revenue when you book a group for any occasion, business or pleasure. From weddings to meetings to family reunions.

Guaranteed room

  • Guaranteed room availability when your room is booked by 3 p.m., 72+ hours prior to arrival.

Uber benefits

  • Register and earn with Uber. Earn 1 Starpoint per 2 U.S. dollars spent with Uber every day, and 2 Starpoints per U.S. dollar spent with Uber during your stays with SPG.

You’ll need to have one qualifying stay with SPG before you’re eligible to start earning points. You can find out more about this benefit here and here.

Increased awards for 50 night and 75 night stays

SPG Platinum is further divided into tiers, so that you are continuously rewarded for your stays as you hit higher thresholds. When you hit 50 nights you can choose from a range of different rewards to receive including:

  • 10 Suite Night Awards
  • The gift of Gold status for a friend or family member
  • One Free Night Award
  • Five Elite-Qualifying Nights
  • SPG donation to UNICEF
  • 40% off your favorite hotel bed

When you hit 75 nights you’re granted additional perks including:

  • Earn 4 Starpoints for every eligible U.S. dollar spent — a 100% bonus over the Preferred level
  • Your24™ — have the flexibility of choosing your check-in. For example, check in at 9 p.m. and check out 9 p.m. on the day of departure.
  • 2 points per $1 spent during a stay

When you hit 100 nights you can enjoy SPG Ambassador service.

And of course there’s lifetime status, achieve 500 eligible nights total and 10 years of Platinum status to earn SPG Lifetime Platinum status.

Final word

Although Marriott is my favorite mid-tier status, my favorite top tier status is probably SPG. I love that you’re offered so many perks for different airlines and can match to Marriott Platinum. The free breakfasts at top properties is nice and I like that upgrades to suites are based on availability.

Las Vegas Cosmopolitan Wrap Around Terrace Suites Review

The wrap around terrace suites are special rooms at the Cosmopolitan that offer some of the most premier views of the Las Vegas Strip and The Fountains of Bellagio. They are big suites with plenty of room but they can come with a pretty high price tag, especially on weekends. So here’s a review of my experience with the suites and whether or not I think they are worth it.

Before jumping into the review, if you’re looking to cut down on your cost of travel, consider getting a card like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. It offers an early spend bonus worth $500 in travel after meeting the minimum spend and is great to cancel out all sorts of travel expenses. 

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

The entrance

The entry way to the room is lit with a mini chandelier that bounces light off the many mirrors along the hallway. Behind the two mirrored doors, there is closet storage space and the white door on the right shown below connects the room to an adjoining suite.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 24
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite entrance.
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 23
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite entrance.

As you enter the suite, the first thing you’ll notice is the guest bathroom on the left. It’s a very spacious bathroom that not only comes with a toilet but also it’s own roomy stand-up shower.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 21
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite guest bathroom.

The bathroom is so big that you could easily mistake it for a primary bathroom at any other hotel.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 22
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite guest bathroom.

Next, you’ll come into the main suite area where you’ll find the mini kitchen and bar area.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 10
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite bar and kitchen area.

It’s a pretty good sized kitchen area with microwave, oven, sink, refrigerator, freezer, and plenty of cabinets. The only thing is that there’s no cooking supplies (pots, pans, etc.) so if you wanted to put this to use, you’d have to find a way to come up with your own cooking supplies.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 11
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite bar and kitchen area.

The fridge is stocked with plenty of beverages, but I didn’t even entertain using any of them given the Vegas prices that I’m sure we would’ve been hit with. However, if you needed a quick jolt from a Red Bull or something it’s nice to have them right there.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 12
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite refrigerator.

Beyond the kitchen area the suite opens up nicely to the dining room area, which consists of a small circular table with four chairs and an overhanging chandelier.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 9
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite dining area.
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 7
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite dining area.

In the corner of the room is the TV and a nice desk. The desk area had several ports for HDMI, VGA, USB for charging, Video/Audio, and iPhone/iPad. It looks like it may have been possible to hook any of those up and play music through the TV sound’s system but we never tried it out. I’d inquire with the hotel if you’re interested in doing that.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 8
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite TV and desk.

Finally, there’s a comfy lounge chair next to one of the sliding doors. Looking out from the chair, we had a an awesome view of Paris and The Strip.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 3
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite lounge chair.

Since I had some work to do for a little while, I found this chair to be the perfect working station for my laptop. It was also nice to leave the sliding door cracked during the evening and listen to the crashing water sounds produced by the Bellagio fountain show. Since it was mid-April, the weather was absolutely perfect during our entire stay in Las Vegas.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 55
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite lounge chair.

The suite decor isn’t over the top swanky like you might find at a W hotel, but I think it’s pretty beautiful. I’d heard reports that some of the rooms at the Cosmopolitan are showing signs of wear and tear but I didn’t feel like that was the case in our room.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 1
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite.
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 28
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite.
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 56
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite.
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 27
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite.

There’s also a pretty comfortable couch that wraps around one of the corners. In front of it is a coffee table and two chairs. Given all of the seating options in this suite, this suite is perfect for entertaining a medium to large sized crowd. You could easily have 15-20+ people up in your suite and between the seats inside and on the terrace, everyone would have a place to sit and relax.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 26
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite.
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 49
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite.

Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!

The wrap around terrace/balcony

While the suite itself is spacious, what really makes this room so special and what makes it one of the best rooms in Vegas, is the balcony or terrace. There aren’t a lot of hotels that offer superb fountain views on an outdoor terrace, but the Cosmo executes this perfectly.

We were set on the 39th floor in the Boulevard Tower. I’d hoped to get higher but considering we upgraded this room last minute on a holiday weekend, we were lucky to get on that high of a floor (or to even get the room period). We were also fortunate to get the “premier view,” which provides you with views of the Bellagio Fountains and The Strip.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 48
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite balcony.

It’s definitely one of the better views I’ve had from any hotel room and it was very easy to spend a lot of time on it just watching and listening to the busy scene below you that is Las Vegas.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 2
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite balcony.
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 31
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite balcony.

It’s a long balcony but on each corner of the balcony you’ll find a different piece of outdoor furniture for you to relax on. The balconies are extremely private although there is a small slit at the edge of the dividers where you can see through to the next balcony (you might be able to see it in the photo below). This was not a problem for us but just something that I noticed.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 30
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite balcony.

It really is a great feeling to have so much space to yourself on your own terrace.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 32
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite balcony.
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 33
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite balcony.

The balcony is a terrific location to watch the city lights slowly light up The Strip as the the sun sets. With the premier view, you have a perfect a view of some of the most picturesque Vegas buildings like the Eiffel Tower, Bellagio, Caesar’s Palace, and so on.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 36
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite balcony view.
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 37
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite balcony view.

Looking the other direction we had great views of the MGM Grand and surrounding hotels. Unfortunately, you can’t really see New York, New York, from the premier view.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 39
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite balcony.

The view gets even better as blue hour sets in and the dark blue sky contrasts with the golden lights of the skyline.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 38
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite balcony.

Brad made this awesome time lapse at Vegas came to life at night from the view from our balcony.


The Bellagio fountain show

In addition to the view of the skyline, the other major attraction of this room is being able to watch and listen to the Bellagio fountain show, which was once the largest fountain in the world before being beat out by Duabi in 2010.

The show runs at the following times:

  • Monday – Friday 3:00 PM – 8:00 PM show every 1/2 hour 8:00 PM – 12:00 AM show every 15 minutes
  • Saturdays & Holidays 12:00 PM – 8:00 PM show every 1/2 hour 8:00 PM – 12:00 AM show every 15 minutes
  • Sundays 11:00 AM – 7:00 PM show every 1/2 hour 7:00 PM – 12:00 AM show every 15 minutes

Since we stayed on a Saturday and Sunday, we got to experience this show many, many times. From the 39th floor you could faintly hear the soundtracks that play along with the show but you could hear the crashing sounds of the fountains loud and clear, which sound like ice bergs calving into the ocean. There are a hand full of different shows that play so you should see something different if you watch them back to back.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 53
Bellagio fountain view hotel room.

I honestly think that it would be kind of a waste to get the wrap around terrace suite and not get the Bellagio fountain view. It’s usually not that much more than the normal view and being able to catch the show from such a high perspective is really a special experience and it will enhance your stay.

I think even if had the option to upgrade for free to a wrap around suite without a Bellagio view I would rather take a lower tier room that had a terrace view of the fountains — that’s how much that view adds to the room.

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Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite balcony view of the Bellagio fountain show.

The bedroom

And finally, there’s the bedroom.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 46
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite bedroom.

Our room came with a king sized bed that was incredibly comfortable. Soft blankets, sheets, and pillows and a very soft mattress allowed me to catch some fantastic sleep, which is much needed in a place like Vegas.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 4
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite bedroom.

The bedroom is spacious and there’s a TV in the corner. There are also controls throughout the suite that will allow you to universally turn off or on every light in the suite in case you ever confused with all of the different lighting options. Blackout curtains allow you to keep the room as dark as you’d like at any time.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 35
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite bedroom.

From the bed, you have a direct view of The Strip — my room looked directly out towards Planet Hollywood. With the sliding doors open you’ll hear all of the music pumping from the pool area parties so don’t expect it be quiet.

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Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite bedroom.

There’s a small dresser by the door as well.

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Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite bedroom.

Over the bed and in-between the bedroom and bathroom there’s an opening in the wall with thin curtains, which is a nice touch although don’t expect them to offer you with privacy to the shower since you can see right through them.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 5
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite bedroom.

The bathroom is very big. It comes with a tub that can easily fit a couple, a large shower, and two sink areas.

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Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite bathroom.

The toilet is in a small room by itself.

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Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite bathroom.
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 17
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite bathroom.
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 18
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite bathroom.
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Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite bathroom.
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 19
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite bathroom.

One nice feature about the bathroom is that you can dim the lights to your desired setting. So you can definitely “set the mood” if that’s your thing.

Cosmopolitan Las Vegas Wrap Around Suite 6
Cosmopolitan Las Vegas wrap around terrace suite bathroom.

Final word

I loved this suite and truly believe that it’s one of the best hotel rooms in Las Vegas. Unless you’re hitting the casinos hard or have thousands to drop on a suite each night, I think this room can provide you with one of the most luxurious experiences in Vegas. The view is unbelievable and there’s more space both inside and outside than you’ll know how to deal with.


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