When I was in high school I would print off images of my favourite Fairmont properties and put them in a frame above my bed. I would fall asleep dreaming about what it would be like to stay at one. I bet it’s just like the pictures I thought. Warm skies, rich scents, true love, softness, ultra luxury, happiness, memories for a lifetime.
Before Tyler and I even had credit cards, or were of age, we tried desperately (but played it cool, of course) to check-into the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver with only a cash deposit. Despite our best efforts, we were politely and deservedly turned away. Instead, we found ourselves at the Ramada on West Pender in Vancouver, BC. I slept on the floor.
Two years later, we stayed at the Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel, on the Gold Floor none the less. We paid the full rack rate and put it on our credit card that we foolishly had. I’m pretty sure that was the night we worked till 10pm and then decided to drive an hour and a half to check in at midnight on daylight savings where we lost an hour, only to check out at 12pm the same day. Not exactly a travel hacking story for the trophy case.
I still remember it though. We were on the Gold Floor. Burgundy and gold undertones. A huge jettub (still my all-time favourite). A shoe shining service. We did nothing but have baths and watch infomercials till early morning. There was an honour bar, but we didn’t drink. There was free breakfast offered in the gold lounge, but we didn’t eat. There was a swimming pool overlooking the airport terminal, but we didn’t bring our swimsuits. This was 2005. We were 19 and were clueless. We were out of our league.
Even without taking advantage of all the Fairmont amenities during my first stay, I was hooked. Just being there was enough, and staying in hotels became my thing. Although a fellow admirer of The Fairmont, Tyler was always more of an airline aficionado, while I preferred roadtrips, hotel hopping, and outdoor adventures. I have an undeniable emotional attachment to the Fairmont.
Getting Elite Benefits With The Fairmont President’s Club Loyalty Program
After getting a few more Fairmont stays under my belt since that first stay, the next step was to achieve Fairmont President’s Club Platinum Status, thanks to my American Express Platinum Card Canada. With booking direct and paying with my Amex Platinum card, I only had to stay 5 nights in a calendar year as opposed to 30 nights!
That’s a huge travel hacking advantage, and one of the many reasons why I love the Fairmont and American Express Canada. With the President’s Club, once you qualified for Platinum status you were awarded a set of certificates for the year, most notably a free night, free suite upgrade, free room upgrade, a $100 property credit, and a benefit not advertised, a local dining experience to be used at a designated restaurant on the property.
Sadly, all good things come to an end, and this program was retired when Fairmont merged with AccorHotels last year. However, as a parting gift, current Platinum members were able to re-qualify and receive a new set of certificates with only 2 stays required before July 1, 2018. I chose the Fairmont Chateau Whistler for both stays.
On the first of two required stays last year, I took advantage of the local dining experience at the Wildflower, and on the second stay, I was upgraded to the Alpine Suite after taking the scenic Pemberton/Lytton drive to Whistler. If you have the time and are looking for that rugged west coast roadtrip, there will be plenty of opportunities for sightseeing along the way. Waterfalls, camping spots, lakes, mountains, short hikes, long hikes, that drive has it all.
After re-qualifying for my Platinum status, I was in good shape to go out with a bang for one last stay under the old loyalty program rules. I could choose any Fairmont property in the world to use this free night stay. So where did I choose?
We Have A Winner. The Fairmont Kea Lani, Maui: The President’s Club Grand Finale
My boyfriend, Johnny, and I just returned a few days ago from our trip to Maui. Although we spent the bulk of our stay at the Marriott Residence Inn in Wailea (which was excellent by the way, and more to come on that later), the real reason we were in Maui was to use my Fairmont President’s Club certificates before they expire at the end of this month for a stay at the Fairmont Kea Lani resort in Wailea.
Wailea is the ritzy part of Maui, and reminds me of the summer beach version of the winter wonderland, Whistler, BC. Everything is pristine, it’s ultra luxury, but the natural beauty of Maui is preserved and free for all to enjoy. There’s free parking, and even the resort beachfronts are freely accessible to anyone, not just limited to guests staying at the hotel. That’s the best of both worlds if you ask me, and one of the many reasons I love Maui.
Checking Into The Fairmont Kea Lani
Thanks to our Platinum Accor status we were able to bypass the general lineup and check-in via the priority lineup for Accor Platinum members.
Here we were in Maui, about to stay for free at one of the most stunning hotels in the world. I was living the dream! Completely oblivious, I was jolted back to reality when the nice lady in the lineup beside us told me to pull down my dress after it had bunched up under my backpack. What a cringe-worthy moment as I proudly marched to the front of my Platinum lineup for all to see. Yes, I was wearing underwear, but still. My picture perfect #FairmontMoment would have to wait.
After a good laugh (what can you do), we were greeted by Ronnie who apologized for the wait (we literally waited 2 minutes, which apparently needed to be acknowledged by Fairmont standards). She had one of the hotel staff come over and present us with leighs. What a wonderful touch, and that Hawaiin experience everyone craves. As much as I appreciated the fresh flowers on my leigh, I wish there was a way to make my keepsake last forever.
We were also presented with two complimentary drink tickets to be used in the Luana Lounge in the main lobby thanks to having Platinum status with Accor Hotels. Twist my arm.
I had been holding on to my Fairmont President’s Club certificates for a while, waiting for the perfect opportunity to use them, and what better property than the Fairmont Kea Lani.
How I Used My Fairmont President’s Club Certificates at the Kea Lani
Here’s a breakdown of how I used my Fairmont President’s Club certificates at the Kea Lani, and took advantage of my Platinum status:
Certificates used for this stay:
- 1-Night Stay Certificate
- Suite Upgrade Certificate
- $225 USD in property credits
1-Night Stay Certificate
An obvious certificate to apply to this stay. This got us the base room with a mountain view. The retail value on this room at the time of booking was $689 USD per night.
Suite Upgrade Certificate
Normally I would book a base room and use this certificate to get a generous upgrade, but The Fairmont Kea Lani is an all-suite property, and the only oceanfront all-suite property in Wailea. Therefore it only entitled us to an upgraded “Garden View”, a retail value at the time of booking of $729 USD per night.
A Complimentary Ocean View Upgrade. Is This Real Life?
While we were waiting for our suite to be ready, I phoned down to the front desk to check the status of our room and was pleasantly surprised we were upgraded to an Ocean view suite. An ocean view upgrade on an already free night stay, wow! This wasn’t a partial ocean view either. This was a dead center, unobstructed view of the beautifully landscaped resort and Pacific Ocean. What an incredible and unexpected upgrade. We were able to soak up the views from the oversized lanai and enjoyed a wonderful breakfast the morning of our departure. The retail value of this room at the time of booking was $1,019 USD per night.
Sunset Dinner at Ko Restaurant
I had been hoarding my property credits (for a total of $225 USD) earned with Platinum status for this stay, which allowed us two magical dining experiences on the property. We made dinner reservations at Ko Restaurant for sunset, and had a decadent spread of appetizers and craft cocktails. We were even able to get a frame-worthy picture taken by our server with the sun setting in the background next to the pool. The bill came to about $175 USD with tax and tip included.
Complimentary Cocktails in the Luana Lounge With Accor Platinum Status
Upon check-in we were presented with 2 complimentary drink certificates thanks to my Platinum status, which could be redeemed at the Luana Lounge in the main lobby. The drink certificates had a value of $36 (two drinks up to a value of $18 each). We enjoyed our drinks and took in the live music performance which was wonderful. I was actually surprised more people were not in the lounge enjoying the free entertainment, as it really set the mood!
Ocean View Breakfast On Our Private Lanai
We had about $75 remaining on my property credit, so naturally, breakfast was the obvious choice. You can expect to budget around $80 USD for two people to have breakfast in bed at Fairmont properties. We enjoyed our delicious breakfast overlooking the multi-million dollar view from the lanai.
Take The Highly Recommended Complimentary Outrigger Canoe Tour
We ended up changing the date of our stay, and as a result, the outrigger canoe was not offered on Saturday morning when we’d be there. I reached out to Alexis, the manager, and she was able to squeeze us in the morning before we even checked in so we could take part. The canoe seats 6 people, with 2 guides, so 4 guests twice per day, 5 days a week get to experience this complimentary 1-hour excursion. There’s room for just 40 guests for the whole week. If you’re looking to learn how to paddle, swim with the sea turtles and knowledgable guides, ride the waves coming back to shore in a 500lb canoe, and if you’re lucky, see some whales, then you’ll want to book this experience well in advance. It will make your trip, and it’s a complimentary service provided by the hotel for some very lucky guests. I feel so grateful for Alexis being able to fit us in. What a start to the day.
Getting The Resort Fee Waived
There is a resort fee of $40 USD to stay at the Fairmont Kea Lani. However, keeping with my tradition, I always look to get the resort fee waived if possible. Generally, you’ll have a better chance of getting resort fees waived if you have loyalty status, or if something wasn’t quite right with your stay.
There ended up being some miscommunication upon check-in. I was under the impression that I was still playing under the old Fairmont President’s Club rules since I’d be using my certificates and would be entitled to early check-in of 12 pm and late checkout and of 4 pm. Upon arriving shortly after noon, our room wasn’t ready, so we were able to use the hospitality suite. My understanding was that we were able to relax there for an hour and then our room would be ready, however, it wasn’t ready until shortly before 4 pm, which wasn’t exactly made clear. When I brought this up upon checkout, I asked if the resort fee could be waived due to the miscommunication, and thankfully Ashley the manager was able to take care of that for us.
The Travel Hacking Cost Breakdown at the Fairmont Kea Lani
Here’s the breakdown of the retail value for our one-night-stay at the Fairmont Kea Lani:
Ocean view suite
$1,019 USD: We paid $0 by using my free night certificate in combination with a suite upgrade certificate and a generous complimentary upgrade to an ocean view.
Dining: $233 USD
We used $225 in dining credits at Ko Restaurant and for room service breakfast.
$36 USD: 2 complimentary drink tickets awarded to Accor Platinum members.
$40 USD: Waived upon request.
Our grand total? $8 USD.
We made out with an $8 bill for our one night stay in an oceanfront suite at the Fairmont Kea Lani, which was the residual of our dining expenses. I’d say that’s pretty impressive for a stay that would have otherwise cost $1,328 USD ($1,766 CAD). Admittedly that travel hacking accomplishment will be hard to top, at least for hotel stays, but I’m up for the challenge.
Time Is Limited, Use Your Certificates Before Feb 28, 2019!
I wish I had better news for the newcomers looking to duplicate this experience, but sadly, this loyalty program has been retired. However, if you are a current Platinum member with Accor and had previously earned Platinum status with the Fairmont President’s Club, please make sure to use your certificates before the end of this month, February 28, 2019. It’s still possible for you to experience what we did IF you’ve already earned your certificates, and act super fast.
Want To Pay For Your Flights To Maui With Points? Apply For The American Express Personal Platinum Card Canada
If you’re looking for flights to Maui, I’d recommend applying for the American Express Personal Platinum Card Canada. You’ll earn up to 50,000 points when you meet the minimum spend requirement of $3,000 in the first 3 months.
50,000 points is enough for two roundtrip economy plane tickets to Maui from the west coast (Seattle or Bellingham). You’ll need to transfer your Amex points to British Airways, an American Express transfer partner, and then book through British Airways for an Alaska Airlines flight. If you need more help after applying for the American Express Personal Platinum card, reach out to me directly for a more detailed explanation and I can help you redeem your points for a flight to Hawaii.
If you’re able to fly out of Seattle, I’d recommend it, as you’ll get airport lounge access with complimentary food and drinks at the American Express Centurion Lounge, among 1,200+ airport lounges around the world thanks to your new Platinum card.
16 Years of Fairmont Moments
I think it’s safe to say after writing this post, I’ve come a long way since my first Fairmont experience. I’ve been fortunate enough to stay at Fairmont properties around the world, most frequently near my hometown in Vancouver and Whistler, BC.
But, like all longterm relationships, we’ve had our differences. I’ve emailed ahead of time to request pet amenities which were not in the room upon arrival, my Platinum status has not been recognized, and on one stay, although getting an upgrade, the patio area was in desperate need of repair. However, the difference with the Fairmont is that they are committed to making it right. Every time there has been an issue (albiet minor) with my stay, they’ve stepped up. Their service recovery is the standard I expect at all hotels.
As amazed I was at the beatufiul landscaping, natural beauty, and architecture of the Fairmont Kea Lani, it’s not just the physical aspects of Fairmont hotels that make staying there so magical. It’s the people. All of the managers, front desk staff, bellmen, housekeeping staff, servers, and really everyone who works at the Fairmont does an excellent job of making you feel welcome. I’d love to get a look at their operations manual, as it’s very obvious everyone is well trained and on the same page of providing a memorable experience for their guests.
I’m lucky enough to live within a 3 hour drive to 6 different Fairmont properties, so it’s an easy choice for a staycation with my dogs since The Fairmont is so pet friendly, but my recent stay at the Kea Lani was my biggest Fairmont stay to date, for a number of personal and travel hacking reasons.
Maybe I’m writing this with a case of the Hawaii blues, but the Fairmont Kea Lani was everything I imagined it would be 16 years ago when I first discovered the Fairmont. All of the pictures are true. All the feels. All the smiles. I just love the Fairmont brand. I’ve never experienced another brand that can transcend the feeling in their marketing to a truly memorable experience like The Fairmont can.
I was able to get a number of videos and photos of our trip to Maui, including a tour of our suite at the Fairmont Kea Lani, so be sure to check them out @PointsWise on Instagram to see my Maui story highlights.
Farewell Fairmont President’s Club. It’s been a great ride.
How do you plan to use your Fairmont President’s Club certificates? And do you have a favourite Fairmont Moment? Let us know in the comments below.