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On Maximizing Club Carlson Points and Looking for Prejudice in Lithuania

A year ago, I wrote a post about burning a ton of Club Carlson points on a Baltic  getaway for my nephews. Time really flies! So, I wanted to do a short trip report and share a few highlights. My brother-in-law wasn’t able to make it, so my mom ended up going instead. I was concerned that either my sister or her wouldn’t come back alive, but they did just fine. A miracle.

Those darn Lithuanians!

Most people in US are familiar with refugee crisis and its affect on European Union. Obviously,  it’s a tragic situation no matter how you look at it. For a fascinating first-hand account of what life is like in a refugee camp, I strongly recommend “Calais  Diaries” series of posts on Pointchaser blog.

But what folks sometimes forget is that Europe itself  is made up of countries that couldn’t be more different from one another. It’s a true melting pot of languages, cultures and traditions, and those differences can at times create a hostile atmosphere. When my family was on a “grand” tour of Europe last year, I witnessed it first hand. My dad was complaining about Russia, our Italian tour guide was unhappy with French people (all of them), and the taxi driver in Ireland had beef with… Greece.

Well, my mom has some serious beef with Lithuanians and is convinced that all of them are against residents of Belarus, their former Soviet comrades. Yes, every single one! In fact, when she came back from the trip, she went on a long Skype rant about how they don’t like “our” people. Apparently, some refused to speak Russian (Lithuanian is a totally different language), were rude for no reason, and the list goes on.

When I pressed her as to whether everyone was truly horrendous toward them, she had to admit that it wasn’t really the case. In fact, one lady even stopped the car and gave them a ride because the kids looked tired. There you go. I’m pretty sure we have a case of confirmation bias.

I think sometimes folks see things they want to see rather than dig deeper. Because if they do, they’ll realize that people are just people, whether it’s a Syrian refugee or a cranky  dude who doesn’t feel like speaking Russian in a country where the first language happens to be Lithuanian. Xenophobia and racism are never the answer.

Using Club Carlson points to dip your toes in a Baltic sea

After my mom was done with her rant, she proceeded to tell me what a great time they had in Klaipeda. So, let me share a few photos with you:


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My sister would make an awesome Instagrammer!

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Here is what 9,000 Club Carlson points will get you in a far flung corner of Europe. Not fancy, obviously, but hey, it’s 9,000 points! And the rate even included breakfast. It looks like this property recently  left the chain, though I doubt that many of you would be rearranging  plans to stay there next summer.

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My nephews are enjoying a playground in Curonian Spit, UNESCO heritage site

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At last, seeing Baltic sea in person.
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My sister is a bit quirky like me.

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My oldest nephew has sent me this message via Skype:

“Здравствуйте тетя Лена! Этим летом я отдыхал в литве Я был в городе Kлайпеда и ездил на море в палангу.  Там очень красиво. Еще я плыл на пароме, затем мы пошли в ресторан кушать, готовят очень вкусно. Больше всего мне понравился дельфинарий. Мне очень понравилось в Литве! Спасибо большое,тетя Лена!”

Rough translation:

“Hello, aunt Leana! This summer we vacationed in Lithuania. We stayed in a city of Klaipeda and saw Baltic sea in Palanga. It was beautiful. I went on a ship, and then we ate in a restaurant. The food was good. I especially enjoyed dolphinarium. I really liked Lithuania. Thank you so much, aunt Leana!”

I don’t see my nephews very often, but it’s nice to give them the gift of travel with the help of my miles and points stash. I may not be there for all the important milestones, but we will always have Klaipeda…

Should you consider Club Carlson co-branded credit card?

Most Club Carlson properties in US aren’t known for being fancy. But I’ll be honest, I find them to be perfectly acceptable. Country Inn and Suites brand is similar to Holiday Inn Express, and rate includes hot breakfast. Many properties are quite expensive on points, though. Still, there are good deals to be had as long as you know where to look. Is this the hottest hotel card bonus? No way, not to me. But it could be for you.

See all category 1 Club Carlson properties (9,000 points per night) and all category 2 properties ( 15,000 points per night). If your travel plans match up, you might want to consider applying for US Bank Club Carlson Signature Visa. You’ll get 85,000 points after spending $2,500 in 3 months. Annual fee of $75 is NOT waived.

Once you factor in  minimum spending, you would have enough points for 10 nights at a Category 1 hotel or 6 nights at Category 2 Club Carlson property. Here is direct non-affiliate link Be aware, US Bank can be picky when it comes to approvals.

Park Inn Radisson Orlando costs 15,000 points per night and is located close to Disney parks. The reviews are somewhat mixed, but it is an affordable option for a family on a tight budget. Club Carlson program can be good for overnight stays when you have an early flight. I burned 15,000 points on one night at a Country Inn and Suites Orlando Airport for my brother-in-law, and he said it was perfectly fine. The rooms at this hotel go for $100, and include breakfast. Read more on  the card and other hotel bonuses in this post

I can say with absolutely certainty that the value I got out of my Club Carlson stash has been tremendous so far. Don’t automatically dismiss this program just because  most in the miles and points community happen to hate it.

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Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.

10 thoughts on “On Maximizing Club Carlson Points and Looking for Prejudice in Lithuania

  1. I think you definitely win the “Best Aunt Ever” award! What a great gift for your sister and her family! With so many blogs talking about premium cabins and suite upgrades, it’s nice to be reminded that spending time someplace different with our family is what it’s all about–even if it’s not too far from home.

    • @Cynthia Thanks! To be honest, I didn’t really do all that much. No false modesty, I promise! 🙂 We are talking about 90K Club Carlson points that got them two rooms for five nights, with breakfast. Seemed like a spectacular use of my points’ stash. And I do love seeing those photos.

  2. Dear “тетя Лена”, love reading your posts and your sense of humor. And you are right- you will always have Klaipeda:-)
    Keep the posts coming! Thanks!

    • @Elina Thank you! It’s sad that I can’t be around my family all that much. I know this trip doesn’t make up for it, but I hope my nephews will still remember this adventure when they grow up.

  3. Refusing to speak Russian….it’s understandable, considering the history and potentially the local legal environment. I’ve not been to Lithuania but I have visited their neighbor Estonia on a business trip, coincidentally around this time of year. My local colleagues told me that speaking Russian is frowned upon. They said Estonia is free and that is the language of the occupiers! Which is interesting because at least one of my colleagues told me there was Russian blood in his family, but they were quite happy to be free of the iron curtain and now members of the EU. At the time (this was 8 years ago), the government was discussing taking active measures against the Russian language. For example, banning Cyrillic signs and enforcing Estonian language in the workplace. I’m not sure if the laws ever materialized since Estonia apparently has a reasonably sized ethnic minority population of Russians.

    Europe is complicated and there are many distinct ethnic areas near current borders that have been captured several times in the past 500 years by larger powers. So while the population may technically reside in country X, some locals may follow the customs/language of nearby country Y. Assuming that they were not forcibly removed or “re-educated” by country X.

    Did your nephews go swimming in the Baltic sea? I was told that it is quite cold, even in summer and only good to jump in if you have been spending a long time in sauna! 🙂

    • @Erik They did go swimming one day! As it turns out, they happened to be in Klaipeda during cold July spell.
      But you are right, Baltic is no Florida, period.That’s why my mom has no problem swimming here in the winter. The water is actually much warmer compared to Baltic sea in the summer. 🙂
      I agree, Europe is very complicated. I imagine Lithuania and Estonia are similar. I have no doubt that there is some anti-Russian sentiment in both countries. Plus, right now the tensions are escalating.
      Belarus has always been caught in the middle. Belarus native language was actually suppressed for decades, to the point that very few people even speak it anymore. Lithuania never wanted to be a part of Soviet Union, and they are trying hard to put that part of history behind them.
      Most regular people, though, are welcoming toward tourists, and my sister didn’t get the same impression as my mom. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to expect visitors to learn at least a couple of phrases in local language. Honestly, few times I’ve been to Lithuania, I didn’t have any issues. Most local people know Russian and will respond as long as you are polite. Obviously, there are some who are deeply nationalistic, but that’s the case in every single country, including this one.

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