A few weeks ago, I wrote about Air Canada Aeroplan having access to expanded award availability on Singapore Airlines. The reason I ran into that availability is because we had a trip planned to Europe with no particular agenda in mind and then just recently came up with the idea to harness our kids’ current obsession with Legos by taking them to the original Legoland in Billund, Denmark. Thanks to the flexibility of award travel, we were able to cancel the tickets we had originally booked to a different destination and rebook from New York to Frankfurt on Singapore Airlines followed by a connection to Billund on Lufthansa. That pivot resulted in a night at a Lindner Hotel (a late 2022 addition to World of Hyatt) in Frankfurt and a chance to check out the original Legoland. I don’t usually publish full trip reports, but in this case I didn’t feel like it made sense to publish separate posts about each piece, so rather I’m publishing one post with a table of contents so you can skip to the part(s) that interest you.
Changing plans is far easier with award travel
In the “real world”, changing plans at the last minute is very expensive, but one of the things I love about award travel is that changing plans is often no big deal with award tickets (as long as you find the availability you need).
The entire impetus behind this trip was that LifeMiles briefly offered business class from Brussels to New York on Brussels Airlines for 25,500 miles one-way (we wrote about that sale when it happened last year). Flying four of us in business class for just over 100K total points one way seemed like a no-brainer to me, so we booked that and later hunted out business class on Air France to get us to Brussels. Interestingly, that trip was scheduled to be Air France business class from New York-JFK to Paris-CDG and then a train from there to Brussels. I was looking forward to reviewing that experience.
We didn’t have specific plans for Belgium, we just booked to and from Belgium because the awards were reasonable and available during a time when we knew we could travel. We figured we may stay in Belgium or may find a cheap award or paid flight somewhere else in Europe.
The idea to visit Legoland hit us just last month and we considered booking separate flights from Brussels to Billund, but the timing just wasn’t working well. Then I ran some searches from New York and I was surprised to find that Air Canada Aeroplan was offering 4+ seats in business class on Singapore Airlines a day earlier than we’d originally planned to fly to Europe and we decided that would work out even better. Since Air France charges 50 Euro / $56 USD per passenger to cancel and redeposit an award ticket, it would cost us $224 to cancel our Air France flights. While we certainly weren’t excited to pay $224 to cancel, it didn’t seem like a particularly painful penalty (especially considering that we’d get back around $760 we had paid in taxes and fees on our Flying Blue tickets).
I was able to cancel the Air France tickets online with ease. I had to agree to the cancellation fee and then officially it said that I would need to wait for a manual review to see a refund of the miles. By the time I logged in next on the following calendar day, the miles had been redeposited and I had received an email confirming the refund of the taxes (the redeposit may have happened within a few minutes of cancellation, I didn’t check until the next day). It was very easy to cancel and did not require any phone calls. I actually did not cancel this itinerary until the day of departure (I held onto this as a backup flight in case for some reason the Singapore Airlines flight fell through) – I cancelled after arriving in Europe, within 12 hours of the scheduled departure of the Air France flight, and that was no problem.
When booking our new tickets through Aeroplan, we could have booked Singapore Airlines from New York-JFK to Frankfurt in business class for 60K miles and $75 CAD (about $56 USD).
However, to continue on to Billund broke into the next distance band and cost 70K miles per passenger in business class. We opted to stretch things out with a 22hrs and 20 minutes layover in Frankfurt, giving us nearly a full day between arrival from the US and departure for Billund. Because of the long layover in Germany, we paid a bit more in taxes (around $113 per passenger in taxes & fees).
I’ll note that we could have alternatively booked New York to Frankfurt for 60K miles in business class and then booked a separate economy class leg from Frankfurt to Billund and saved some miles. Air Canada Aeroplan would charge 7.5K miles for a short hop from Frankfurt to Billund in economy class or United MileagePlus would charge 6.5K miles in economy, but we would have paid more in taxes that way and would have lost our business class baggage allowance (we needed the extra weight).
All things considered, this seemed like a pretty easy pivot that would have been unheard of for us back in our days of booking the cheapest discount round trip economy class airfare we could find. Award travel often makes changing plans far more affordable, though you do have to mind the cancellation penalties and requirements of the airline program you’re using.
Tim recently reviewed Singapore Airlines business class on this route, so you can see his post for full details on the experience. My $0.02 is that I love the entire Singapore Airlines experience. Service was fantastic, food was very good, and the seat is wide and has plenty of storage space.
A night in Frankfurt at the Lindner Hotel Frankfurt Main Plaza
We chose an itinerary with an overnight layover in Frankfurt, so we originally booked a night at a Marriott property near the airport. Then I stumbled on the Lindner Hotel Frankfurt Main Plaza and it seemed like a far better option.
Lindner is a chain that joined World of Hyatt late last year and exists under the JdV umbrella. Stephen has covered some Lindner sweet spots: Hyatt’s new Lindner hotel collection has these exciting options. In fact, the Lindner Hotel Frankfurt Main Plaza was one of the options he covered in that post (and I didn’t realize it until after I stayed there!). The short story is that many Lindner hotels are rather affordable, which can be true both in terms of cash rates and award rates. I was excited to try one out and doubly excited since it meant picking up a new brand toward my next Hyatt Brand Explorer award since I’ve never stayed at a JdV property myself (formerly branded as “joe de vivre”).
As a Category 2 property, a standard award costs 8,000 points per night. However, a standard room would have only had 2 twin beds, so I would have needed to have booked two rooms (for 16K total points). Instead, I opted to pay 127 Euro and 6,500 points for a Points & Cash standard suite booking (for some reason, though a suite was available for points and cash, it wasn’t available for a straight up award booking on our date).
The Lindner Hotel’s suites seem really big. The room description says that they range in size, averaging around 1,000 or 1,100 square feet and they accommodate up to four guests.
Oddly, if you put 4 guests in the Hyatt search tool, that room type won’t come up. However, since the room description clearly says that the room accommodates up to four guests, I just went ahead and booked it for one person and figured we could get it resolved at check-in. To be clear, that strategy won’t always work in Europe, but given how cheap rooms were in Frankfurt and the fact that the description clearly states that it accommodates up to four people, I figured we would probably be fine. Indeed it as fine, we just had to pay a little bit extra in a local city tax. Getting a roll-away bed was no problem — and it certainly fit in the space in the room :-).
Our stay at the Lindner hotel was brief, which is why I’m not dedicating an entire bottom line review to it. We arrived well ahead of check-in time and had no trouble getting directly into the room, which was huge since our flight from New York to Frankfurt landed an hour and forty minutes ahead of schedule, which meant that none of us had gotten as much sleep as we’d hoped. We didn’t experience much of the hotel outside of the friendly service from the front desk and the room itself. One kind of cool service note: I couldn’t figure out how to call the front desk from the room phone, but there was a business card on the desk with a QR code to contact them via WhatsApp. I did that at ~6:30am to ask them to order a taxi and I got a response from the desk confirming that they would order us a taxi within less than a minute.
We departed too early for breakfast the next morning and we didn’t really use other amenities in the hotel. We strolled the neighborhood and found a nearby grocery store where we picked up some things to eat for dinner and we slept. It was a fine place to stay for a night. Despite the “Main Plaza” name, it wasn’t in the historical center of Frankfurt (“Main” is the name of the adjacent river), so the location seemed so-so. The nearby area was pretty residential, which has pluses and minuses. There was a music festival across the river from the hotel, so I got to enjoy the bands as I was up late working on a post and I kept the living room windows open to listen.
One thing worth keeping in mind is that this property also has a two bedroom premium suite that is sometimes bookable entirely with points. Since cash prices at this hotel weren’t very high on dates I checked, it isn’t the amazing value you might expect, but I’d much rather use 16K points on this 2-bedroom suite than use 16K points to book two standard rooms that each have 2 twin beds.
That room was actually available the day that we checked in, but I didn’t inquire as to an upgrade to it. Especially after seeing the size of our room, a 2-bedroom wasn’t necessary for us.
Castle Hotel Legoland Billund
In Billund, we booked two nights at the Castle Hotel Legoland. The Billund Legoland resort has quite a few options, from the Hotel Legoland, which is physically connected to the park, to cabins and RV parking. We teetered between staying at the Hotel Legoland, which would have been significantly cheaper during our dates, or the Castle Hotel Legoland, which is next door to Hotel Legoland and about 100 yards from the main entrance to Legoland (with a convenient walking path). The Castle Hotel is newer than the Hotel Legoland and unlike the Hotel Legoland, the Castle Hotel has air conditioning.
We opted for the Castle Hotel in large part because of the air conditioning (even though we knew it was unlikely to be very hot, we didn’t want to chance being uncomfortable) and in part because we thought the castle theme looked more fun. We thought our kids would love it (and we were right about that). It seriously took about 3 minutes to walk to and from the main gate of the park, which was really nice. You can even leave the park and re-enter if you get a stamp, so the location could be really, really convenient.
However, this wasn’t cheap — it was very much in line with on-property Disney prices. I was actually surprised at how expensive it is to stay on-property at Legoland Billund. One nice thing is that the city of Billund operates a free shuttle from the airport to Legoland, the Legoland Hotel / Castle Hotel, and several other resorts. There is a timetable on the wall in the airport and it’s easy to find the shuttle by exiting from baggage claim and turning left. My picture of the timetable is hard to read, but you’ll find this next to the machine that sells tickets for other city buses.
If you’re going to go to Legoland Billund, it’s worth checking the website at legoland.dk. We found some specials there for the Hotel Legoland that were priced better than what we saw anywhere else.
However, the price for the room we honed in on at the Castle Hotel was pretty similar through most online booking platforms, give or take a few dollars.
I’ve earned quite a bit in rewards through Capital One Shopping and that cash back can only be redeemed for gift cards. I opted to redeem some of my Capital One Shopping rewards for Hotels.com gift cards and I paid about $1200 for two nights at Castle Hotel Legoland Billund. This was easily the most expensive hotel we’ve ever paid for when it comes to a cash rate (by far) and it doesn’t hold a candle to many of our finest award redemptions, but I had earned quite a bit in Capital One Shopping cash back and we decided we’d splurge on something fun.
Was the Castle Hotel worth about $600 a night? On the surface, absolutely not. If you ignore the décor, the room was fairly basic (my wife compared it to a glorified dorm room in some ways). The included buffet breakfast was decent, but not impressive. However, the décor was on point.
The room itself was reasonably large, with bunk beds and a trundle bed and play area for the kids at the entrance.
And then there was a bathroom and closet area followed by the main bed area at the far end of the room, creating some separation between parents and kids (which was handy for when I needed to get work done — my wife actually got the kids ready and in bed while I was recording the podcast at the opposite end of the room.
Staff at the hotel were very friendly and everything felt clean. Overall, this was a very good stay. It wasn’t luxurious, but it was fun.
If I had one complaint about the hotel, it would be a lack of food options. I had read reviews and knew this would be an issue going into the trip. There is a single buffet restaurant at the hotel and dinner isn’t cheap (based on what I’d read online, I expected dinner to run us around $200 if we’d eaten at the hotel buffet). There is no room service or take-away option in the castle hotel — just a small marketplace with snacks that are mostly gummies or potato chips and a few drink options.
I overheard a staff member telling someone that the selection at Hotel Legoland was better and that you could go over there to buy stuff from their marketplace, but I didn’t get over there to check it out. I wasn’t hungry when we stopped for lunch yesterday and I basically ended up having cookies for dinner.
Also of note is that there are a couple of cool themed playgrounds, one in front of the castle hotel and one between the Castle Hotel and the hotel Legoland. My kids could spend all day playing at these playgrounds.
I was happy that in many ways, Legoland was far more affordable than Disney (with some exceptions). One particularly nice thing is that we were able to buy tickets to the park cheaper at the front desk of the hotel than the prices we saw online for park tickets (and the online prices are said to be cheaper than the gate prices). We purchased 3 two-day tickets to Legoland Billund (our 2yr old was free) for less than $200 — at less than $100 a day for our family of four (thanks to our youngest being free), that seemed like a very reasonable deal. Adding on a third day would have cost us about another $15 per person. A meal within the park, with pizzas for 2 kids and 2 adults plus three lemonades, a large coffee, and a huge Coca-Cola came to about $63. Some things were surprisingly expensive (that large coke was about $9), but other things were surprisingly affordable.
You could of course spend a thousand dollars or more on some of the more complex Lego sets, just like at home. They had a wide range. There were also a number of both Lego sets and souvenirs that I haven’t seen at Lego stores in the US (and I’ve been to quite a few Lego stores these past few years). But I liked that souvenirs in the park didn’t have to break the bank, with small Lego sets going for around $13 and a Lego minifigure going for around $5 for a specific character (or less if you’re buying build-your-own).
On that note, one of the fun things about Legoland Billund is that employees wear a name badge with a Lego minifigure attached. If you have your own minifigure to trade, the employees with trade their minifigure with you. In at least one store we entered, the cash register also had a few Lego minis available for trade.
Disney die-hards will recognize this concept as Disney does something similar with pins. I had read about this just about a week before our trip and I bought a random assortment of 10 Lego minifigures on Amazon for $26 that we used to make trades. We ended up with some pretty cool Lego minifigures and it was a fun way to engage with staff. I think my wife might have gotten more into trading the minifigures than our kids :-D. She was particularly excited about the trade she made for this figure that had a bouquet of flowers.
I didn’t get a good picture of some of the coolest ones my kids got, but these were some of ours. My son also got a really cool knight with a shield on the first day. This was fun.
Also appreciated is the fact that there don’t seem to be restrictions against bringing your own food and drink to the park. There were no bag or stroller checks, nor any signs that I noticed prohibiting outside food or beverage. That could make a day at Legoland extra affordable.
And when it comes to food and drinks, Legoland has a variety of options available. We opted for pizza both days as one of our sons is a very picky eater, but they had a wide range of different options available, from a family buffet to a Mexican cantina to the pizza and burgers and plenty more.
The thing that probably impressed me the most about Legoland was the various landscapes. They built some really cool replicas of actual cities and landmarks and had some wildly detailed scenes. One scene even had a canal with functioning locks that moved a boat up and down a hill. Another scene was the Billund Airport, with a plane getting washed or de-iced and others moving around. There was a replica of Mount Rushmore and one of the Kennedy Space Center with a rocket launch that included smoke coming from the rocket. Some of the scenes included a million or more Lego bricks. It was really impressive.
Speaking of Lego bricks, one of the things I loved as that lines for attractions included Lego play areas where kids could play with Legos instead of just being antsy in line. That made the waiting so much less stressful. This was a GREAT idea.
Overall, Legoland was very enjoyable. We’ve been the Legoland New York (which isn’t in New York City but rather an hour or so upstate from the city) and near Orlando, Florida. There is a lot of overlap in attractions, but this park seemed to have a bit more going on than either of those two parks individually and there was a lot of attention to detail everywhere. Those who have been to Paris Disneyland often say that there is just a lot more attention to detail in the decoration than other Disney parks and I’d say the same was true of Legoland Billund versus other Legoland properties we’ve seen. I wouldn’t say it is a must-visit theme park (rides were fairly limited and mostly for younger kids), but if you have kids who are as obsessed with Legos as mine and you’re going to Europe anyway, it could be worth a side trip as long as you can stomach the cost of the hotel.
This trip to Billund, Denmark was mostly unplanned in the sense that we didn’t even come up with the idea to go to Legoland until a few weeks before the trip. Luckily, since award travel is easier to cancel and rebook than most cash tickets, we were able to cancel our original flight to Europe and book something else just a few weeks before departure. That gave me a chance to check out a new brand under the Hyatt portfolio and to experience the original Legoland with my family. This was a pretty cool side trip that we would probably consider adding on to another future trip to Europe, though the cost of staying “on-property” can be quite pricey.