...constantly searching to find the best travel deals and places to visit. A never-ending quest for adventure!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

New route alert: Dulles to Brussels!

Starting June 18th, Star Alliance flyers will one more option when deciding on flights to Europe - Brussels Airlines will begin non-stop service between Washington Dulles and Brussels.  This is the second direct destination from the US to Brussels, after they launched service from New York last June.

The office release can be found here.  Flights will be on A330 aircraft with their new business class product, five days a week departing at 10:30p.

I'm excited about another Star Alliance redemption option into Europe - if you're saving up your United miles like I am, this could open up another round of good options and saver tickets (providing they allow for availability). 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Carlson promo (targeted) nights!

Club Carlson is having a special (though targeted) promo for 30% off nights and 1000 points per night!  See below:

Save 30% on your next trip when you book select hotels at radisson.com, countryinns.com or parkinn.com by February 12, 2013, and stay during specific dates between February 22 and May 4, 2013.

Save 30% at select Carlson Rezidor hotels
Central Midwest
Central America
South America
Country Inns & Suites By CarlsonSM
Central Midwest
Central America

There are only a limited number of rooms available! Book your stay at radisson.com, countryinns.com or parkinn.com today and earn 1,000 bonus Gold Points® for every online booking.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Quick safari trip!

If you're thinking I was on a safari in Africa, I'm sorry to disappoint.  This quick, in town trip was a run up to the San Diego Zoo Safari Park near Escondido.  I haven't visited there for some time, and since my parents were in town it was a great option!

Here are a few pics to show you:

I really miss the train/monorail (they removed it and the tracks a few years ago but the concrete base is still present around the property), but the park is really fun to see - the animals just roam all over.  Can't wait to go back!

Friday, January 25, 2013

AA/US Airways merger? Maybe

This story crossed the wire today:

Merger Possible?

I'm always a little skeptical by the whole "unnamed sources" thing, but given how its written I'm tending to lean in the direction of it being legitimate.  

How might this change things?

In a big way, potentially.  For frequent fliers and miles junkies, the makeup of a combined airline and how it structures (or changes) the frequent flyer program is a big concern.  The hope would be that it adopts the AA earning structure and redemptions (since it's far superior than US Airways), stays in OneWorld, and lets you combine miles between programs. 

Guess we'll have to keep watching...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

cost of points earning cards?

A recent Marketwatch article spoke to the pluses and minuses of travel-card rewards - the headline speaks about how generous the rewards are but the attached strings come at a cost.

It's a well known strategy to use credit card "churning" to get in on large point bonuses - this was the primary strategy when the first cards came out.

If done smartly, churning can be one of the most lucrative ways to earn points.  Unfortunately, the tide changed for this strategy years ago when banks and credit card issuers began to attach minimum spend requirements to card applications. It became necessary to use the card for a predetermined amount in order to secure the highest available bonuses.  For some cards this can be as much as $10,000...for others, as low as $500.  There are ways to help alleviate the dollars required (I'm thinking Bluebird, Kiva, and others) and it helps to have a partner along for the ride when deciding on which cards to get.  But you should never just sign up for a card because - have a strategy or a goal in mind for how you want to use the miles. That will help steer your spending and not cause things to get out of control.

As with all cards, make sure you carefully read the terms and conditions of acceptance.  You want to make sure the card is right for you and your earning situation.

(PS - this is my 500th post!  Thank you to everyone who has been along for the ride so far!)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New United program: Recognition miles

I received an email this morning from United, highlighting a new program that gives you the opportunity to purchase blocks of mileage for family and friends for special occasions (and in the process recognizes the purchaser for their generous "gift"). 

You can find more details about it here.

The program is a bit pricey though:

At first glance, I don't think that this is something that I will make use of.  The lowest option available prices out at $0.037 per mile - not extremely generous and average for most purchase miles options on United.  The 500,000 mile option is at the same price, so you don't even get a discount by purchasing the larger mileage option.

For some people this might make sense, especially if you're planning a large family trip and want to top off your miles.  Otherwise, I'd probably take a pass.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Flight Deal: LAX-Bogota for $414!

If you're looking for a spring break vacation option, this might be a good deal for you!

Flights from LAX to Bogota, Columbia are available for under $420.

This deal is currently available only through Orbitz - a search on United.com showed much higher fares.  I'm not sure how long this will last, so get in on it now if you can!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

or perhaps an ink Bold...

Chase has a number of credit card products that are pretty popular - the Sapphire Preferred is at the top of that list.

But if you're interested in delving deeper into the purchase/points game, Chase also offers the Ink Bold and Ink Plus business cards.  The Ink Bold is a charge card, meaning its a line of credit you have to pay back every month (therefore there are no interest charges, etc).  The Ink Plus is a true credit card, standard with monthly fees and interest if you don't pay it off.

The perks of these cards, though, are definitely a good option to consider for your point earning playbook:

Earn 5x points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent annually at office supply stores, cellular phone, landline, internet, and cable TV services
Earn 2X points per $1 on the first $50,000 spent annually at gas stations and hotel accommodations when purchased directly with the hotel.
Earn 1X point per $1 on all other purchases, with no limits on how much you can earn.
No foreign transaction fees

Important to note that these are both business cards - meaning you would need to add your soc sec number to any application - there are strategies out there for successful applications even though you may not have a large business operation. Sell things on Ebay?  You qualify!

I use my Ink Bold for all of my telecommunications bills - at 5x points per dollar, that adds up every month.  Since Ultimate Rewards are the most flexible points to get, every little bit helps!

Monday, January 14, 2013

best of sapphire preferred

Thought I'd highlight all of the best things about the Sapphire Preferred card (in case you haven't gotten in on it yet).  It's really one of the best points earning credit cards out there right now, and should be at the top of your list.  I've had two close friends already get in on it, and so far they haven't looked back!

Here are the specifics:

- 2 points per dollar spent on travel (airlines, airports, car rental agencies (including truck, trailer, and RV), cruise ships, hotels and motels, timeshares, local and commuter transportation (including trains, buses, taxis/limos, ferries, bridges, tolls, and parking), and travel agencies)
- 2 points per dollar spent on dining
- 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
- 1 additional point per dollar airfare and hotel booked online through UR
- No foreign transaction fees

Travel Delay insurance. If your trip is delayed by 18 hours or more, you are eligible for reimbursement of up to $300 per purchased ticket for things like lodging and meals. You must purchase the ticket using your card for the benefit.
Lost baggage insurance. If your checked or carry-on baggage is lost permanently or damaged you are eligible for up to $3,000 in reimbursement. You must file a claim within 45 days and must use the card to pay for the travel. This benefit extends to air, rail, and bus travel.
Trip cancellation insurance. If you must cancel travel via a common carrier due to serious illness or injury to you, spouse, or dependent child (under 19 years old if living at home, under 25 if a full time student), you can be reimbursed up to $5,000 for tickets that are non-refundable, and that were purchased in full with the card. This includes tickets purchased using reward points with the card. Deaths of family members (your children, parents / in laws, grandparents / in laws, aunts/uncles/nieces/nephews, guardians) also qualify. Please check with Chase for the latest terms and conditions.
Car rental collision insurance. This coverage is secondary to any insurance you currently carry, but offers insurance against damage up to the cost of most rental car vehicles. Include economy through luxury class vehicles, vans that carry less than 7 passengers, and SUVs.
Roadside assistance. 24 hour roadside assistance including limited towing, lost key, and gas replacement is available, generally up to $50 in service value.
Lost luggage reimbursement. You will be eligible to receive reimbursement for your checked luggage, carry-on luggage, and its contents for the difference between the “value of the amount claimed” and the Common Carrier’s payment, up to $3,000 per trip (in New York, coverage is limited to $2,000 per bag for New York residents), provided the luggage was lost due to theft or misdirection by the Common Carrier.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

down goes Wyndham

Late last year, I got in on a few cool points deals through Wyndham (properties include Ramada, Days Inn, Wingate) - they were running two different promotions at the time that offered up 16,000 points per stay, along with a 5000 point bonus based on three stays.  In the process my banked total of points exploded to around 71,000.  Not bad.

Wyndham redemptions don't give the greatest rewards - the max for airline miles converts at a rate of 30,000 Wyndham points for 12,000 miles.  The choice of airline partners though is pretty good, and includes mainstays United and American along with a bunch of others (Aeroplan, Saudia, etc).

Unfortunately in the last 24 hours, it seems as though Wyndham decided to make some award chart changes without telling anyone.  In some cases, according to this thread, top tier awards for some properties have changed from 16,000 points to 45,000!  Danger!

I'm very suspect when chains just make changes without telling their rewards members - why hide the changes unless of course you know there's going to be a backlash.

So...before anything else gets devalued, my points have now become miles.  Better to be safe than sorry.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Over 1,000,000 points in 2012? It can be done.

If you read the headline and thought it was me, I'm very sorry to disappoint you - I wish it was.

Among the many blogs that I read, I wanted to share this particular post which is a husband and wife team that managed to accumulate over a million points between the two of the them in 2012.


I particularly like the graphic shared, since it shows exactly which offers they managed to get in on - it goes to show you that the credit card companies are quite generous throughout the year on their promotions.  One caveat to all of this though - most of these cards have spending requirements in order to get the full points offered.  So if you are strategic about your spending (i.e. putting your rent on your cards, all of your communications bills, etc) you should be able to typically take care of the modest spending requirements ($1000-$2000 in 3-4 months).  Make sure that the card and spending makes sense for you in your situation. 

I haven't totaled my take from 2012 yet...maybe I should...

Friday, January 11, 2013

Happy birthday, London Tube!

I always enjoy taking the Tube in London, for the simple reason that it's so easy to use (especially if you have an Oyster card and top off once you get there).  So that's why I want to wish the tube a very happy 150 years of serving London!

You can find some fun facts about the tube here.

My favorite is the fact that they installed suicide pits in 1926 beneath the tracks...apparently that was the thing to do back then since there were so many?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Phoenix to Johannesburg?

Since getting to Johannesburg and Cape Town is on my list of goals, I couldn't pass up the chance to share this flight deal from Phoenix (courtesy of theflightdeal.com):


The cost is actually not too prohibitive, seeing as though you are flying all the way down under.  Plus this deal is on British Airways, so you have your choice of collecting Avios or Aadvantage miles (I'd probably choose the latter at this point).  If you have a BA credit card, you can get an additional 10% off the fare - only issue is that availability is through March 31st, and tickets must be purchased by January 23rd.

If you have some time available, this deal isn't too shabby!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

do I want to fly on the new planes?

It seems to be the "vogue" thing to do these days - the minute a new airplane type is released, it becomes all the rage if you're a frequent flyer to try and get a flight on the new plane.  Call me crazy, but I'm not one of those types who absolutely need to fly on them the minute they are put into service.  I've always been a believer in letting the airlines get the kinks out of the planes first before I sit my butt in one of the seats.

Given the recent news about the new Dreamliner and what has taken place in Boston this week, I find my mindset to be just a tad justified.

Don't get me wrong - the allure of flying on one of the largest airplanes does intrigue me.  And I'm really curious about the whole "shower" spa thing and sleeping in a suite.  And yes, one of my dreams was always to fly on the Concorde, and I really missed out on that one.

But for now I'll keep saving my miles and try out some of these new planes eventually.  Once the kinks are worked out.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

American / Qatar Airways Codeshare!

I'm not sure what it is, but ever since I took my first trip over to Doha I see so many more news articles that concern Qatar than I ever saw before.  And when they are travel related, I take special notice since there's always a good chance I'll be returning (whether for leisure or for something related to my dissertation research). 

Today was another day of note concerning travel to Qatar - American and Qatar Airways officially sealed a codeshare pact (courtesy of USA Today) that should open up a host of travel opportunities to the Middle East and allow for flyers to collect Aadvantage miles in the process. 

No mention was made of whether miles earned will be elite qualifying, but hopefully the codeshare will include that option.

Flight options will be available beginning February 10th for travel commencing February 26th on most non-stop routes between the US and Doha.

Guess I will start my fall travel planning now!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Into the new year we go...

Happy New year everyone!

I know I'm a little late in the game on the greeting, but was on the road back to WI for my brother's wedding and only just recently managed to get back home.  For all of you who have taken a few minutes to check out my blog over the past years, I sincerely want to thank you and hope you have enjoyed.  I've tried my best to keep this space for all of my travel interests, with a few other random topics sprinkled in from time to time. 

One of my big takeaways from last year is that I've become much more savvy and in-tune with point collecting and general travel topics.  My experience has been honed by daily blog reading and a more concerted effort to maximize my card usage at locations that take advantage of bonus point values (for example, grocery shopping with a card that gives me 6x points - why didn't I ever do that before?).

So this year I anticipate doing more of the same, and have a few travel goals in mind for 2013 (provided I get my dissertation written and defended as my #1 goal).  Not sure if any of them will work out, but it's great to have goals!  Here they are in no particular order:

1.  South Africa - Besides Johannesburg, there are penguins to be viewed, seeing where the oceans meet, Table Mountain, and a safari to be had around the Cape Town area.  This one has been recommended near Kruger National Park.

2.  Tirana, Albania - I had a classmate at WLC who was from Albania, and always encouraged me to visit.  The Citadel at Berat would be neat to check out!

3.  Kuala Lumpur - Seeing the towers is high on my list!

4.  New Zealand - Not sure if it's just a Lord of the Rings thing, but seeing the landscape and trying some of that famous wine would be completely relaxing.