Introduction: An Amazing Week In Israel With My Parents

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Welcome to my next trip report, covering travel in EL AL first & business class, Aer Lingus business class, Delta business class, a bunch of lounges, two hotels in Israel, and much more! This was a really fun trip, and I can’t wait to share all the details.

Planning the trip

This blog is about the journey rather than the destination, and as a result my travel is often dictated by airline products I want to review, rather than destinations I want to visit. However, Israel has been a destination that has been on my radar for so long. Just this year EL AL took delivery of their first 787 featuring their new business class product, and that seemed to me like the perfect opportunity to not only fly with them, but also to visit Israel.

My mom’s number one dream destination has been Israel, so she was the natural travel companion for this trip. In the end my dad came along as well (I was supposed to go on a trip with him in September, but due to the US hurricane situation at the time, that didn’t happen). So I guess this killed two birds with one stone in terms of taking trips with both of my parents.

Booking flights

EL AL for years has been known for having outdated first & business class products, so the 787 very much represents a fresh start for the airline. As a result, my goal was to review EL AL’s new 787 business class, and also their old 777 first class.

EL AL doesn’t have many mileage partners, and on top of that, they typically only make one business class award seat available per flight, and I was traveling with my mom.

EL AL’s first 787 destination in the US was Newark, though the cheapest one-way business class fare was ~$4,500. However, by originating travel in Toronto, that fare was over 50% lower. So I managed to book the following for ~$1,840 per person one-way (which is still a lot of money, but seemed like the best way to book this):

11/11 PD139 Toronto to Newark departing 4:10PM arriving 5:40PM [Economy]
11/12 LY28 Newark to Tel Aviv departing 1:15PM arriving 6:35AM (+1 day) [Business]

Sure, I’ll gladly position to Toronto to save that much money, and it also let me try Porter Airlines, which I’ve been wanting to try.

My mom and I split ways in Tel Aviv on the return, and I redeemed 56,000 Qantas points plus paid $30 in taxes to book the following (Qantas is basically EL AL’s only useful partner):

11/20 LY319 Tel Aviv to London departing 5:15PM arriving 8:50PM [First]

EL AL’s first class award availability is quite good, and you can book it directly on Qantas’ website, which is great. Keep in mind that Qantas is transfer partners with Citi ThankYou, which is how I generated the Qantas points.

Since I still needed to cross the Atlantic, I decided that I wanted to try Aer Lingus business class, which required first getting to Dublin. So I positioned from London to Dublin on British Airways for just 7,750 Avios plus $40:

11/21 BA830 London to Dublin departing 8:20AM arriving 9:40AM [Business]

From there I managed to find Aer Lingus business class award availability from Dublin to New York. I booked the following for 50,000 Avios plus $85 (the number of Avios was lower than usual since this was an off-peak award):

11/21 EI109 Dublin to New York departing 4:10PM arriving 7:05PM [Business]

Lastly I was hoping to get to Los Angeles, and Delta had a pretty reasonable fare in business class for $659, so I booked that, especially since it helped me complete my Delta Platinum challenge:

11/22 DL472 New York to Los Angeles departing 7:00AM arriving 10:25AM [Business]

In the end, my entire routing looked as follows:

Booking hotels

For this trip I needed the following hotel nights:

  • 1 night in Toronto
  • 1 night in Newark
  • 7 nights in Israel
  • 1 night in London
  • 1 night in New York

For Toronto I decided to book the Adelaide, which is the new Starwood Luxury Collection hotel in Toronto. This is the former Trump Hotel that will become a St. Regis next year. The rate for our one night stay was ~$300, and I booked through Luxury Privileges, so that included a $100 food & beverage credit, free breakfast, etc. This is a Category 6 SPG property, so a free night would have cost 20,000 Starpoints. Paying cash was the better value, in my opinion.

Then we just had a quick overnight near Newark Airport, and decided to book the Marriott, since it’s the closest to the terminal. The rate for our one night stay was $150.

This was our first time in Israel, so we weren’t sure how to split our time between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv (in the individual installments I’ll share what I would do if I were to take the trip again). Based on availability and pricing we ended up booking three nights at the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem, and four nights at the Sheraton Tel Aviv. I know there are potentially better hotels in both cities, but I wanted to review the points offerings.

For the first three nights we booked the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem. We booked one room for 95,000 Hilton Honors points per night, and the other for about $400 per night. Ultimately this wasn’t a great use of points, but I figured I was already spending enough cash on the trip.

Then for the last four nights in Israel we booked the Sheraton Tel Aviv using the Citi Prestige fourth night free benefit. The rate would have been $300 per night, so my out of pocket ended up being $225 per night. This is a Category 5 SPG property, so paying cash seemed like a better value than redeeming 12,000 Starpoints per night.

On the return I had a quick overnight at Heathrow Airport. Since I was arriving at Terminal 4, it made sense to stay at a hotel within walking distance of the terminal. There are three options — the Yotel, the Hilton, and the Premier Inn. I’ve reviewed the Yotel and Hilton, so I figured I’d try the new Premier Inn, which cost ~$70 for my one-night stay. This was my first stay at a Premier Inn, so I was curious how it compared.

Lastly I needed a night near JFK, so I booked the Sheraton, which I won’t be reviewing this time around, as I’ve done so many times in the past.

Bottom line

We had such an incredible and memorable time in Israel, and I can’t wait to return. I was happy to have the chance to experience several new premium cabin products, but even more am thrilled by the amazing memories I have with my parents on this trip, as I’d say it was the best trip we’ve ever taken together. While I don’t usually do this, I’ll also share a bit about my thoughts on the destination.

Thanks for reading!

  1. It’s so awesome to see some reviews of places in addition to just the planes/hotels. Glad you enjoyed the trip and were able to spend some amazing quality time with your folks. Israel’s been off and on my bucket list over the last couple of years – most recently off – but just this intro has definitely thrown it back on. Can’t wait to read the rest of report(s).

  2. This looks like an incredible trip, but of all the decent options at Heathrow, including the Hilton actually connected to the terminal, what compelled you to stay at the Premier Inn?

  3. @Varun Susarla Ben reviewed the inaugural A350 on qr almost 3 years ago. Not much has changed on the product since then.

  4. Anxious to hear about the Israel portion -besides Jeru/Tel, did you get out in the country? Is 7 days enough? Any fears re security -did you feel threatened in any way?

  5. Lucky, how does the elal originating in Toronto help with the elal fare if it was on Porter who’s an independent airline vs, just showing up at EWR for the TLV flight

  6. I love Israel, went for the first time with my family 9 or 10 years ago, and hope to again next year. Beautiful country, so much history, cant wait to read about your experience Ben!

  7. So informative. While I enjoy reading blogs for personal travel experiences, this post goes way beyond that in a super helpful way. I think I need to read it again to fully digest all the great snippets of information, and how you saved money by strategic booking along the way. I also didn’t realise how much there is to discover about mileage partners and flying points.

  8. At first glance I thought the photo of the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem was the Fullerton Hotel in Singapore; looks almost identical in terms of layout and color tones.

  9. @ Colin

    He actually explains why he chose the Premier Inn at LHR over the Hilton.

    I’ve often stayed at that Hilton which is perfectly pleasant for an airport hotel. But that Premier Inn rate looks very tempting. I’m curious to see how it was.

  10. Can’t wait for this report. We did a similar trip to Israel a few years ago, spending time in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The Sofitel at Heathrow is connected to Terminal 5 by a walkway. Similar to Le Méridien in Cairo which you recommended. We stayed there following your recommendation (in the same suite) and mentioned your review to the management team. It is excellent for an airport hotel. Flew with British Airways, London Heathrow to Tel Aviv, first class. We had the entire cabin to ourselves. This might explain why BA subsequently withdrew almost all FC flights to Tel Aviv. Low demand. This is a pity as Israel is unmissable. In Jerusalem we chose the King David Hotel for the incredible views of the old city. The Waldorf Astoria is a short walk away. We had drinks there but disliked the attitude at reception. The Waldorf is very attractive and pleasant otherwise. The newly refurbished rooms at The King David would still be my preference for a first visit as I like the swimming pool and breathtaking views from the top floors of the old city.

  11. I stayed at the Premier Inn T4 twice in August, and while I was happy with it, there were some issues. Curious to see your review!

  12. For the first three nights we booked the Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem. We booked one room for 95,000 Hilton Honors points per night, and the other for about $400 per night. Ultimately this wasn’t a great use of points, but I figured I was already spending enough cash on the trip.

    I’m curious why you said that; you value Hilton points at .4 cents per point here:

    So it sounds like you got about what you value your Hilton points at?

  13. @ eponymous coward — Right, that doesn’t account for the points I was forgoing. As a Gold member with the current Hilton promotion I’d be earning close to 40 points per dollar including the return I get on credit card spend, so I need to account for that when valuing the redemption.

  14. Dear Lucky,
    2.5 days in Israel – Traveling next month with husband and adult son for first time. Looking for a private tour guide to maximize limited time. Also looking for what to see there. Thanks in advance for your help.

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