This is part 1 of a 3 part series on my Milan trip report; this will be on travel, the 2nd will be on what we did there, and the 3rd on where we ate! Also, at the end, I have a link for time-limited cheap tickets to Milan!
My wife and I just got back from a long weekend in Milan, Italy, courtesy of a mistake fare on the Norwegian equivalent of Expedia, called Wideroe.no, back at the end of October. Basically, there were many city pairs where they didn’t charge fuel surcharges, which in many cases were the bulk of ticket price. What this meant is that my wife and I were able to fly from NYC to Milan for around $320 roundtrip, for BOTH of us. I learned of this deal from a website called The Flight Deal, which sends out a daily newsletter, and which I highly recommend you all subscribe to.
I originally booked LGA – MXP direct on United, but because it was an atypical transaction, originating from Norway, my Chase Sapphire Preferred flagged it, and it never went through. I rebooked, but unfortunately this one routed on Air Canada from LGA – YYZ – FRA – MXP. It was a lot more butt-in-seat time, but the silver lining was that I’d get more miles credited, 8800 miles vs 7900, courtesy of GCMAP (I credited our miles towards US Air, so they’d go to American Airlines eventually). We live in PHL, so had to get to LGA – I figured no problem, Amtrak makes it easy; however, I forgot it was Superbowl weekend 🙁 More about that later.
For the hotel, I didn’t have a ton of hotel points sitting around, and was yet to apply for both the IHG Rewards 80k Visa or the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa (unfortunately, non-affiliate links ;). So I used a 17% coupon from Travelocity that was languishing in my inbox, and found the Best Western Mozart near Center City, for less than $100 per night. I kind of like Best Westerns for budget travel, because they offer free wifi and free breakfasts (which all hotels should offer). This rate was actually less than any of the local hostels or Airbnb offerings, so I jumped on it.
I double-dipped on the Amtrak tickets, because there was (and is) a simultaneous Amex sync offer where you get $30 back off a $150 purchase, and a promo through Amtrak where you get a free roundtrip ticket with two purchased roundtrip tickets by March 1st.
The Amtrak trip went swimmingly (I love taking Amtrak!), but once we got to Penn Station in Manhattan, we had two hours before our flight left, and it was Superbowl weekend coming up during rush hour (I clearly had not planned this very well). The taxi queue was literally around the corner, and not moving. On the train trip I was reading my Feedly…err…feed, and found an article on Deals We Like about an Uber promo. I’d screwed around with it for about 5 minutes before finally hitting it, and had $25 of free credit, so we decided to Uber it. Normally I only use Uber for date night and similar, but we were in a time crunch, and this was our best recourse.
A charming native Guinean named Mamadou picked us up, offered us gum and water, fulfilled our request to listen to NPR en route, discussed NJ politics with me, and despite crippling traffic and crowds got us there with time to spare. We’d printed out our boarding tickets ahead of time, and only brought carry-ons, so I had time to pop into the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge using my Amex Platinum supplied Priority Pass Select, to grab some snacks for the flight. I forgot to take pics, because of the time crunch; it was underwhelming but adequate.
The flight LGA – YYZ was on an Embraer E-190, which was uneventful. We had about 2 hours in Toronto Pearson Airport, which by the way is absolutely beautiful and puts PHL to shame! After passing through passport control, we were going to go to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge there, but didn’t realize Priority Pass doesn’t get us in there, only being a business or first class flyer. We decided to go to the Plaza Premium Lounge, and was going to use my Loungeclub card, which offers a one-time free pass to a lounge, and you get as a benefit of getting the Chase Ink Bold or Plus; however on the way there I saw a banner for something called Amex Cloud 10.
Amex Cloud 10 is a benefit for Canadian Amex Platinum cardholders, and thus far is only available at YYZ; it seems to be to be a similar benefit to our Centurion Lounges (perhaps Canadian Kilometers can comment). It includes free valet service, priority check-in, and the Cloud 10 lounge. It seems that the lounge is so new that it’s not even mentioned on it’s own webpage, but the charming young lady at the check-in counter said that although it’s meant for Canadian Platinum holders, they offer reciprocal benefits for US Platinum holders too. I’m kicking myself because I didn’t take pictures and there don’t seem to be any on google. It has a nice food spread, liquor, beer, sodas and coffee, etc., as well as nice seats, complimentary wifi, and well-appointed bathrooms (although no shower). It’s similar to most domestic lounges in the US, and unfortunately nowhere near as nice as the Centurion Lounges.
After delicious marinated chicken, very good clam chowder, and (several) gin & tonics, it was on to our flight! We were economy in a Boeing 77W two class, and the economy rows were in a 3-3-3 configuration. I booked us on either aisle in the middle, and luckily no one ended up being in the middle, so we had it to ourselves. The food and entertainment options ended up being better than I expected, and I watched movies almost the whole time when I should’ve been sleeping.
The flight was thankfully uneventful, the service was great, and we arrived in Frankfurt w/o time to visit a lounge. The Lufthansa flight to Milan was short and uneventful as well. At MXP, we shlepped it to the train station. In Italy, their train system is extensive, clean and efficient, unlike ours, and just a delight to use. You can look up schedules here. The one-way trip from MXP to Milano Centrale was 10 Euro, and took about 45 minutes. A little cultural quirk – in Italy, they do not call you to the ticket window, and if you don’t go up yourself, they will sit there and play on the computer without glancing at you.
A word about what apps I used while there, because honestly, without these apps, we would not have had nearly the great experience we had. First, download the stay.com app; it offers an offline map, which is clutch when you, like me, have your cellular data turned off. It shows where you are using GPS. Finally it offers curated to-do and to-eat lists, which I utilized heavily and will share in the next post. Another was the Milan & more app, which is another curated app with amazing restaurant and cultural destination recommendations. Finally, Google maps is clutch for offline GPS when you’re outside the city, like on our trip to Lake Como and Bellagio. These apps are all free! I will go over what we did and where we ate in my next two posts!
Now, for the cheap tickets to Milan: courtesy of The Points Guy, roundtrip tickets from JFK to MXP on Emirates are just $440 per person, with some caveats. You need to buy at least two tickets (so $880 for two people), you need to book by Feb 8th (tomorrow), travel by Feb 28th, and return on a Monday or Wednesday. But if you’re flexible, I highly recommend checking this city out!