Thursday, April 21, 2022

Making Memories with Moms 2022 ✈ Copenhagen

This pandemic has certainly been a good reminder that life is short, life is capricious. Therefore, we have been more intentional about spending time and making memories with our loved ones over the past few years. Both our moms enjoy traveling but haven't been able to travel overseas over the past 2 years, so we decided to invite our moms to join us on our trips this year, and continue to make more memories together. =)

This 'Making Memories with Moms' journey started with a visit to Denmark and Finland with MIL, checking off the last 2 'main' Nordic countries on our travel list. My journey then continued with a 2nd visit to the Maldives, this time around with my mom. We are well aware that the pandemic ain't over yet, and with all things going on in the world now, we definitely do not take for granted the opportunity and ability to travel abroad these days. 

Trip Planning & Preparation
When we booked this trip back in October 2021, our original route was supposed to be Poland - Denmark (layover) - Finland. Finland was the main destination of this trip (to see the Northern Lights), and Poland was added to utilize United's excursionist perk. As for Maldives, I had speculatively booked the hotel back in May 2021 and when we were planning for the Finland trip, I intentionally planned the dates back-to-back, with the goal of combining 2 trips into one. Honestly, I wasn't sure if I was able to pull off this multi-country trip given the constantly changing travel restrictions but since most of our hotels and flights were booked with points and miles, we had some flexibility for plan changes. 

My insta-story in Oct 2021 with our original route, which included planned visits to Krakow, Warsaw, Gdansk, Copenhagen, Rovaniemi, and Helsinki.

As it got closer to our trip, we saw that Poland still required PCR test within 24 hours of arrival. Since we had multiple transits, we decided it was too much hassle trying to sort out the PCR test to enter Poland, so we decided to rebook our flights and cover only Denmark and Finland on this trip. Fortunately, United allowed free cancellation and changes for award bookings. Our hotels in Poland (IHG/Hilton) were also easily cancellable. It turned out to be a good decision after all when the war started just a few weeks before our trip started.

Traveling these days require a lot more flexibility and preparation. Of course, I had a spreadsheet to keep track of the different travel restrictions for each country. The rules were changing up until a week before our trip, with Germany dropping Denmark as a high risk area, Maldives dropping PCR test before departure, and Malaysia dropping mandatory quarantine. All positive changes so I'm not complaining. =)

I 'brilliantly' planned a winter and summer trip together, and I was also traveling back to Malaysia with stuffs to bring back for the family, so I had to be strategic with my packing and fit everything into 2 check-in bags. My luggage was for Maldives and Malaysia stuffs, while hubby's luggage was for both our winter stuffs. 

17-18 Mar 2022 (Thurs-Fri): Huntsville - Washington DC - Zurich - Copenhagen

Checking in for our flight in Huntsville was quick and easy as we had already uploaded our vaccination records on United's app, which was required to enter Denmark. Our flight from Huntsville to DC at 1.20pm was quite full. Travel is back...ugh!

Went to the Turkish Airlines lounge during our 2.5 hours transit in DC but hubby was quickly turned off by the crowded lounge, and the buffet counter. We grabbed some quick bites and left shortly coz we didn't want to risk being in a crowded enclosed area. 

2nd leg of our flight, 8-hours from DC to Zurich on United. Another full flight, mediocre food, slight turbulence, but I was able to nap some.

Our flight landed slightly ahead of schedule in Zurich at 7.45am. We went to the Primeclass Lounge at Gate E to hangout and had breakfast during our 2.5 hours transit. Contrary to the lounge in DC, this lounge was empty when we arrived and there was plenty of space, including an outdoor deck to watch the planes. 

Final leg of our flight from Zurich to Copenhagen at 10.20am on Cityjet (part of SAS). This was yet another full flight. Since Zurich was our first entry point into the Schengen area, we had to go through immigration and got a stamp on our passport here.

After traveling for approx. 17 hours, we finally made it to Copenhagen at 12.20pm. =) Since we were arriving from another Schengen country, we didn't need to go through immigration in Denmark.

Took the train from the airport to our hotel for DKK24/pax ($3.60). Our hotel was conveniently located only 5-8 min from the airport.  

Our accommodation for one night in Copenhagen...Crowne Plaza Copenhagen Towers. This hotel isn't located in the city center but there are train and metro stations close by so it was very convenient. We booked this with 21,000 IHG points for 3 person and there weren't any extra charges. The hotel also helped to put a rollaway bed for us. 

The hotel staff also told us that there's no need to wear a mask in Copenhagen anymore as the country had removed all Covid restrictions. Life is back to normal in Denmark. However, we still kept our masks on throughout our trip as we were still going to travel around for a few more days so we definitely don't want to get sick. 

After a short rest, we took the metro to the city at 3pm for sightseeing and canal cruise tour. We bought the 24-hour City Pass which gave us access to all trains, metros, buses and harbor buses in zones 1-4 for DKK80/pax ($12). I made a stupid mistake of not collecting the 3rd ticket from the ticket machine after paying for it (coz I was rushing to get on the metro) so we had to buy another pass. =.= Not sure if we were just lucky but nobody checked our tickets at all every time we rode on the trains and metros.

Since we were only visiting Copenhagen for 1.5 days, we decided to take the 1-hour Canal Cruise tour for DK99/pax ($15), which gave us a quick glimpse of Copenhagen city. For those looking for a more budget-friendly option to see the city from the canal without a guide, the hotel staff recommended the harbor bus (the yellow boat at the bottom right photo), which was included in our 24-hour City Pass.

We boarded the cruise from Ved Stranden instead of Nyhavn as it was the first stop and we were able to secure to open air seats at the back of the boat. The cruise took us through several popular landmarks and architectural sites.

Copenhagen's most iconic spot, the colorful Nyhavn waterfront from the canal. According to the guide, it is very rare to have such beautiful weather in March so we were very lucky to have blue and clear skies when we were there.

Copenhagen is a pretty cool city with a good mix of historical and modern architectures. Some sights we saw on the boat tour include Amalienborg Palace, The Old Stock Exchange, Christianshavn Church, The Black Diamond ‘BLOX’, Little Mermaid Statue.

We decided to call it a day after the canal cruise tour and headed back to our hotel for the 6pm Happy Hour at the club lounge, which I got access to as a welcome amenity for being a IHG Spire Elite member.

19 Mar 2022 (Sat): Copenhagen - Munich - Dusseldorf

Another IHG Spire Elite benefit at this hotel was free breakfast (for all 3 of us) at the hotel restaurant. I was impressed with the buffet spread.

After a good night's rest and a good breakfast, we took the 9am train into the city for another round of sightseeing.

First stop of the day was Kastellet - an old fort in Copenhagen which is shaped like a pentagram and surrounded by a moat.

Next to Kastellet was St. Alban's Anglican Church.

We walked all around the city to visit various sights...clocking in a total of 18,000 steps. 

Frederik's Church (The Marble Church). The interior was amazing and best of all, it's free to enter, just be quiet.

Amalienborg Palace is the home to the Danish Royal Family (like the Buckingham palace). It has 4 identical facades around a courtyard, and you can find military guards standing near the entrances.

Rosenborg castle sits in the middle of town, surrounded by a park and gardens. Entrance costs DKK120 ($24) but we didn't enter. Not sure what occasion it was but the military band had a parade around town that morning.

Trinitatis Church, Round Tower, and Stroget pedestrian zone.

We ended our sightseeing at Nyhavn. We originally planned to have lunch there but were turned off by the crowd, so we only had waffle and headed back to the hotel at 1pm.

We requested for 3pm late checkout so we were able to rest some before heading to the airport. We were planning to take the train to the airport but it wasn't operating when we got to the platform so we took the longer route via metro instead.

Checking in for our flight at Copenhagen was easy. The airline staff asked for our vaccination records (required for Finland) and that was it. We were also glad to be able to check out bags all the way to Rovaniemi even with the overnight layover in Dusseldorf. Had some snacks at the Carlsberg Aviator lounge before boarding our flight to Munich and totally forgotten that we missed both lunch and dinner that day...whoops!

Instead of flying direct from Copenhagen to Rovaniemi (our next destination), we took a detour through Germany by flying from Copenhagen - Munich - Dusseldorf - Rovaniemi instead coz that was the only available option using points...haha! =P Contrary to Denmark, Germany was still pretty strict with their Covid restrictions. Lufthansa requires all passengers to wear at least a surgical mask, no cloth masks allowed. The hotel in Germany also asked to look at our vaccination records when we were checking in.

We arrived Dusseldorf at 10pm and our flight to Rovaniemi was at 8.45am the next morning, so we booked a room for 3 at Holiday Inn Express Dusseldorf - City North for 11,000 IHG points. The hotel was about 10 minutes from the airport so we took an Uber, a Mercedes Benz. Welcome to! 

20 Mar 2022 (Sun): Dusseldorf - Rovaniemi

Complimentary breakfast at the hotel before heading back to the airport. 

The reason why we traveled through Dusseldorf is because this was Eurowings' hub. Eurowings is Lufthansa's low-cost carrier. Made a quick stop at Hugo Junkers Lounge to grab some water before boarding our 8.45am flight.

That's all for our quick 1.5 days in Copenhagen. Thank you Copenhagen for the beautiful weather throughout our short stopover. Next destination....Rovaniemi, Finland.