Last week I took my mom on a last minute trip to Big Sur, California. In this post, I wanted to provide some background information about this trip before delving into the actual reviews of flights and hotels.
The motivation for this trip
My mom is the bravest person I know – she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer almost two years ago and she was an incredible fighter. She basically spent the year before the coronavirus went through chemotherapy and recovered from surgery and then hit the coronavirus leaving her locked in her home even longer.
We did everything to spend as much time together as possible. We spent a lot of time together in Germany last autumn. Of course, protecting my mother from coronavirus was a priority and luckily she was vaccinated earlier this year.
While we have some family trips planned for the coming weeks, we did something really special last week. My mother only had one doctor’s appointment on Monday morning and had nothing else for the week, which is rare. She was feeling relatively good too, so we took advantage of that and I planned a mother and son trip just for us.
My mom and I have had so many great trips together over the years. Growing up I remember traveling to Germany with her every summer to see my family and then we would always visit some new countries in Europe. I remember when I graduated from high school and we visited New Zealand and Australia together and absolutely loved it. This is just the tip of the iceberg of the amazing travel memories I have of them, and I look forward to seeing them continue.
The hotels we stayed in
Ford and I stayed at Alila Ventana Big Sur in late 2019 and loved the hotel. It’s my favorite points hotel in the US. Since then the property has only gotten better as stays here now include all meals and the same number of points are required.
Reward availability can be difficult to come by at this hotel. However, when I was thinking about where to go, I noticed that this hotel had award availability for three nights in the same week. I booked straight away and applied for a Globalist Suite Upgrade Award to confirm a suite upgrade – you can’t beat that!
Alila Ventana Big Sur Suite
We spent a total of five nights in hotels:
- We landed at SFO late at night so I booked a night at the Grand Hyatt SFO that I wanted to see. I booked this for ~ $ 180
- We then spent three nights at the Alila Ventana Big Sur, which I booked for 30,000 points per night
- We then stayed one night at the Hyatt Highlands Carmel as the Alila was only available for three nights and this hotel is also closer to Carmel that we wanted to check out. I had heard good things about this hotel even though I’m so confused with hindsight. So stay tuned for this review (did I accidentally end up at the wrong hotel?)
The Grand Hyatt SFO is an airplane that discovers the sky
I knew my mom would love this trip – even though she can’t hike, she loves the outdoors and is outside and the weather forecast looked perfect.
Funny times with mom at Alila Ventana Big Sur
The flights we traveled on
Let me split our flights in the order I booked them. The return flight was obvious – Alaska Airlines flies non-stop from San Francisco to Tampa on Saturdays, so we booked that. There was award availability so I could redeem 25,000 American AAdvantage miles for my mom’s seat while booking a paid first class fare for myself for ~ $ 600 as that would count towards American Airlines AAdvantage status .
Alaska Airlines 737 first class
The outbound was a little trickier. Alaska Airlines flies from Tampa to San Francisco on Mondays (the day we flew), but it was too early as my mom had an appointment that morning.
I wanted to find the fastest and most convenient routing possible, so I finally booked us with United from Tampa via Chicago to San Francisco. Why? The Chicago to San Francisco flight was to be operated by a Boeing 787-8 with new Polaris seats, and I knew my mother would appreciate the opportunity to rest for that night flight.
Mother enjoys the United Polaris seat
This will be a different type of travelogue
Although this travelogue will contain several installments, it will be a bit untraditional at least compared to my usual travelogues:
- I will not fully review the flights, just share my opinion on the service that both airlines are offering in the face of the coronavirus
- I wrote an in-depth review of Ventana Big Sur when I was there in 2019. Hence, I have reviews that specifically focus on the suite we stayed in (this is the standard suite in the hotel) as well as the new all inclusive restaurant model in the hotel
- I will be reviewing the Grand Hyatt SFO and the Hyatt Highlands Carmel in full – I absolutely loved one of the hotels while the other was my most disappointing Hyatt stay in … maybe forever?
Hyatt Highlands Carmel, Category 7 Worst Hyatt Hotel?
My mom and I had a memorable trip to California last week and I can’t wait to share the details. Not only did we love the trip as such, but most of all we had to spend so much time together.
I’ll be posting this review pretty quickly (as you can see, I’ve been blasting the reviews lately, and hopefully it’s something you guys like).
Thanks for reading and stay tuned!