Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hyatt Visa Card - How to Get An Amazing Offer

A few months back, I applied for the Hyatt Visa card and found an amazing offer. Since I was a Hyatt Platinum member, I received 2 free nights and 2 free paid suite upgrades after my first purchase. However, what made this offer even sweeter was the $75 statement credit, which you received after your first purchase, the same amount as the first years fee.

For me, after spending $10 at lunch, I received 2 free nights, 2 free paid suite upgrades and a $75 statement credit, which offset the $75 annual fee. I was fearful that the statement credit could only be used on actual spending, instead of the annual fee. It turns out that the statement credit can offset the annual fee.

Last night, I wanted to see if this credit card offer was still available and I surprised it was. However, if you want to get in on this offer, you are going to have to work for it.

To make your life easier, I broke down the steps here:

1) Go to Hyatt.com. A page similar to this should appear:



2) Make a fake reservation, by picking a location and date. Hit "Find Hotel:"

3) I choose Tokyo for this example. A list of properties in the are will come up. Pick any hotel, it does not 
    matter:


4) You may have to place the reservation again. The goal is to get to a page with the cost per night like this:

5) Click any "Book Now," a page like this should pop up:


6) You are looking for an offer like the one in red above. Click on it to get to the offer page:


You have found the holy grail of credit card offers. Hit "Apply Now!" and cross your fingers for instant approval.

If you have not applied for the Hyatt Visa Card, this offer is a great way to get on board and at zero cost.

Happy Applying!





Saturday, September 29, 2012

Napkin Conundrum

One of the first posts I wrote was the importance of travel goals or a travel bucket list. Personally, I have a list and it includes cities from all seven continents. However, on my recent US Airways flight, I become dumbfounded when I received this napkin:


My napkin is still blank as you can see. How is it that I have a travel bucket list, but I can’t answer my Life's Ultimate To-Do List.

1)      Do I want to walk the Great Wall of China? Sure

2)   Locate the Loch Ness Monster? Yes.

      3)      Do I want to take the geeky picture of me holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Of Course!

I don't consider any of these on my Ultimate To-Do List. These are activities that on my travel bucket list, but I won't have regrets if I do not accomplish any of these. That is the difference between an item on your bucket list or an item on your Ultimate To-Do List. I am going to have to think about this napkin some more.

I like this cross promotional material. This napkin was a great way for Hilton to get some attention of travelers, especially those going somewhere.The main point of the napkin is to highlight a contest Hilton Garden Inn is having. Go here, before September 30th, to register to win a 3 night/ 2 day trip to accomplish your Ultimate To-Do List item.

What's on your Ultimate To-Do List?



     

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Ultimate Upgrade


Earlier this year, I decided 2012 was the year of the “upgrade.” Not just my travel, but my entire life. I was going to upgrade my wardrobe (I still had clothing I purchased freshman year of college circa 2003), my job, my electronics etc. All aspects of life were going to be upgrade.

One part that I was neglecting was my health and body.  I never really paid much attention to what I ate or my lack of regular physical exercise. That needed to change! If I was going to upgrade the physical objects in my life, I should spend equal focus and money upgrading the most important asset, my health.

Around July, I made the decision to work-out at the gym or run outside a minimum of 5 times a week. Yes, a big jump from zero days a week, but I needed to go all-in or I would fall off the horse. Since July, I am averaging about 4.5 days a week and loving every moment of it.

Back to the purpose of this post, this weekend’s trip to San Diego caused me to have a small problem: When was I going to work out? I was going to be gone 3 days, Saturday through Monday. If I skipped working out all three days, I would have had to work out five days straight this week, which my body can’t handle.

Since I just got serious about exercising two months ago, I never paid much attention to if a hotel had a gym before booking. Luckily, the Four Points had a small gym with a stationary bike, treadmill, elliptical and free weights. However, the Holiday Inn Express did not have a gym. What would have happen if neither had a gym?

Yes, I could have run outside, but I was nervous not knowing the neighborhood. In addition, I get lost very easy. Twice on this trip, I had to take a cab to my hotel as I got lost walking back to my hotel. Once I found myself by the city jail at 11pm. Not the best place to be around that time of night.

In the end, I worked out Saturday afternoon, after arriving, and Sunday morning before switching hotels. In both instances, I killed about 90 minutes between stretching, working out and showering afterwards. Luckily, on this trip, I had no agenda, but what if I did. Could I justify spending 90 minutes a day on vacation to work out?

Is there a balance? Can I explore a new destination, eat what I want and exercise all while on vacation? It’s a question I am going to need to think about before planning my trips.

In the future, I am going to have to pay more attention to if a hotel has a gym in choosing my travel. If a gym is not an option, then I am going to have to use Mapmyrun.com to pick a route before my trip begins. If I am going to succeed in upgrading my health, its going to take dedication and persistence especially when away from Washington, DC.

Do you work out when on vacation? What do you do if a hotel does not have a gym/?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Denver Food Tour Part 2: Microbrews at Wynkoop Brewing Company

After stuffing ourselves at Snooze we toured around Denver and ended up famished and looking for a good place to go eat. I also had heard great things about the amazing amount of microbrews that Denver has available so I wanted to try a bunch for y'all  and report back (It's a rough job, but someone has to do it). 

We walked around the "LoDo" district in downtown Denver and landed at Wynkoop Brewing Company which according to their website was the first brewpub in Denver. As we are DC folks at heart we of course had to go to a place that had a political element: current John Hickenlooper, the current governor of Colorado, was one of the partners that started the brewery. 

We saddled up at the bar and looked at their display which lists all of the beers they have on tap (Current List Here). Kelsey decided to try the "Rail Yard Ale" which is their classic amber beer. I decided to give em all a try (For science, yeah...that's it) and do a flight of their beers. 


Wynkoop has three different flights of beers divided into the "A Train, B Train and C Train" a nod to their location near the Union Station rail yard. 

I tried the "A Train and the B Train" which included: 
Rail Yard Ale, Orchard Ale, Light Rail Ale, B K 3 Schwarbier, Silverback Pilsner, London Calling IPA, Cowtown Milk Stout, and their Red Ale Seasonal (Sorry I don't remember the name)

They were all gerat but I was partial to their Orchard Ale and their London Calling IPA. I really wanted to try their "Patty's Chile Beer" which apparently has the flavor of chilies, but none of the heat. Guess that just means we have to go back again soon. :) 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Breakfast: The Most Important Meal - Denver Edition

I already knew that Denver was becoming a good food city, but I was surprised at how awesome it actually was. Here in DC lots of restaurants have "local food" or food that is "organic" but they use that as an excuse to charge you double. In Denver every restaurant we stumbled upon truly was a "local" restaurant and the taste of the food showed that local element with every bite.

Our favorit restaurant of the trip was Snooze, an A.M. Eatery  a breakfast/lunch joint that got rave reviews online as a locals favorite destination, so I knew we had to go.

We arrived around 9 a.m. and there were already dozens of people waiting outside. We went inside and found out the wait was 50 minutes to an hour...but the restaurant was packed so I knew we had to wait to try it.

The restaurant its self is designed as a classic 50s diner type setting. Lots of funky looking chairs and booths with memorabilia all over the walls. The restaurant infuses their own alcohol for their bloody mary and other morning style mixed drinks.

Bar Area with the infused liquor for breakfast mixes 

We decided against an alcoholic drink and I went with just straight coffee while Kelsey went with a vanilla latte, which were very delicious. 

Next it was time to tackle the menu....



The menu is primarily split between sweet and savory...now when I am at breakfast I always have trouble deciding between the two so Kelsey and I decided to split our entrees so we could get the best of both worlds. 

Kelsey decided on the "pancake flight" which like a beer or wine flight allowed you to choose three separate pancakes. She choose the "The Vermonter" which is a buttermilk pancake with blueberries, crumbled streusel, blueberry maple syrup and lavender butter; the "Pancake of the Day" which was a Pina Colada pancake with pineapple topping; and the "Coffee and Donuts Pancake" which was a buttermilk pancake glazed with maple icing and topped with crushed pecans and a cup o' espresso cream. 

I went the savory route and got the "Snooze Spuds Delux" which was hash browns, cheddar & jack cheese, scallions and I added bacon, eggs and poblano peppers. 

Awesome coffee cups 

"Snooze Spuds Deluxe"

"Pancake Flight" 

Everything was AMAZING!!! Seriously....we at all of this and didn't eat for the rest of the day because everything was so delicious and filling. The spuds deluxe was amazing and the poblano peppers added that needed zip to complement the rest of the scramble. The pancake flight was out of this world delicious with Kelsey loving "The Vermonter" and my coffee crazy self of course loving the "Coffee and Donuts." 

The atmosphere, food and the staff which were awesome made this an amazing experience that beat the hotel breakfast three times over and cost half as much. 




Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Good, Bad, & Ugly - San Diego Trip

Now that I am back on the east coast, I wanted to give you an update of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of my trip to San Diego. A full trip report will follow with in the next two weeks.

In reverse order:

The Ugly
  • No water put on the plane on the outgoing flight
  • No circulated air in the gym @ Four Points Hotel
  • Camera phone pictures ( I'll let you decide!!!)
  • Bacon Maple Smores Bar
The Bad
  • Seersucker Restaurant
  • Staff @ Four Points Hotel sending me to a trolley stop closed over 6 weeks ago
  • Walking 4 miles in flip-flops
  • No gym @ Holiday Inn Express
  • Hot weather and locals complaining of the hot weather (It was 91)
  • Being asked to gate check my bag due to space issues, but having the bin above my seat empty 
The Good
  • Empty middle seat on the outgoing flight
  • Staff @ Holiday Inn Express
  • San Diego State University v. San Jose State University Football Game
  • Trolley System
  • Fried Pickles wrapper in Prosciutto stuffed with cream cheese
  • The Movie, "Big Miracle" 
Overall, the trip was amazing and exactly what I needed.

 I did nothing major and loved every moment of it!!!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Good Service on United: It still happens!

Over the past year  I have developed a very love/hate relationship with United. I generally like flying them and find them better than some of the other legacy carriers. But, that being said, you can definitely see them going through their growing pains as the merger with Continental is fully realized.

Their phone crews are absolutely horrible...I have never called in and had less than a 20-30 min wait and I am always met with a horrible agent who seems to be troubled that I called and would like them to assist me.

But last night I was shown the good side of United...the side that people always used to talk about before the merger. I had spent the weekend in Denver and was headed back to DC. We boarded the flight and Kelsey and I were stuck all the way in the back of the plane (my least favorite place) and I ran to the bathroom quickly. I started talking to the steward that was working the back section of the plane and was getting the service carts ready for the flight. He was a big kidder and teased me a few times, but then he asked me why I had been in Denver and if DC was my home.

After talking back and forth for a bit he said, "Well for being such a good sport, I want you to have these," and he handed me a box. The box contained two cookies that were normally saved for the first class passengers, but they apparently had a few extra cookies.

I know this isn't a very big gesture, but the kindness of this gentleman is what United should be and could be as an airline. Just taking care of passengers and making sure they are comfortable wherever they are going. This is the United I hope to see again in the future.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

This Weekend


This is a big travel weekend for Chris and I. 

Chris is headed to Denver to look at a graduate school for his GF.

As previously stated, by now to many times, am off to San Diego to do who knows what . . .

Content might be light this weekend, but you can expect two trip reports in the next few weeks.

Everyone enjoy this first weekend in Fall!


Friday, September 21, 2012

Which Credit Card is Right for You?


Over the past week, I have been asked a few times which mileage earning credit I would recommend. In college, one of my favorite professors use to say, “If you have a question on something, it is high likelihood that others in the class have the same question. So ask the question.” Using that logic, I thought I would share my opinion.

If you are looking to add a mileage earning credit card to your wallet, you should ask yourself the following questions:

1)      What credit cards do you already have?

2)      What is your end goal in collecting miles? A free flight? A free hotel?  A dream vacation?

3)      Looking over the last two years, what airline did you fly the most? What hotel chain did you stay at the most?

4)      How many flights did you take this year?

5)      How much money do you spend in a given month?

Let’s use my friend Clay as an example:

1)      What credit cards do you already have, Clay? Chase Marriott only.

2)      What is your end goal? To go on vacation with my girlfriend.

3)      What airline and hotel did you fly the most over the last two years? United and Frontier and Marriott.

4)      How many flights have you taken this year? About 5, equally split between the two airlines.

5)      How much do you spend in a given month? A couple thousand a month between rent, utilities, & personal expenses.

With the answers to these 5 questions, we have learned a lot. For instance, since Clay’s end goal is that
he wants to go vacation, we know he will need flights and hotel nights. Since, he already has the Chase
Marriott card and stays at Marriott, we can assume he has Marriott points; therefore, eliminating the
need for hotel nights.

Now redefining the end goal as free flights, we can focus our attention on credit cards that earn miles. 
Looking at his travel patterns over the past two years, we see he spends time on both United and
Frontier Airlines. I suggested him focus only on United, as it is a member of the Star Alliance giving
him access to 20+ airlines.

There are a few credit cards that come to mind that allow people to earn miles on United: United 
Mileage Plus Explorer Card, United Mileage Plus Club Card and Chase Sapphire. To decide which
credit card fits Clay best, one needs to look at the benefits of each card; ie free bags, lounge access, 
priority boarding. After a quick conversation with Clay, I learned that he does not need free bags
because work pays for them on his business trips and he flies home normally on Frontier. With that
information, I told him he should apply for Chase Sapphire (40,000 Ultimate Rewards after spending 
$3,000 in three months) and have the ability to transfer to many airlines (United, Korean Air,
Southwest and British Airways.)

The last of the five questions is to determine if you can meet the spend threshold to get the sign-up 
bonus. If you can’t hit the spend threshold and snag the bonus, then don’t apply for that particular card. 
The sign-up bonuses are where you are going to get the most bang for your buck.

The ability to hit a spend threshold was critical in my recommendation to another friend. This law student 
flies exclusively on US Airways and has a limited budget. My recommendation was a no brainer – the 
Barclay US Airways Dividend Miles MasterCard with a 30,000 mile sign-up bonus after your first 
purchase.

If you are questioning which credit card should fill your wallet, answer the five questions above honestly 
and the answer will become much clearer. The first step in succeeding in the frequent flyer game is to get 
a mileage earning credit card, so you leave no points behind.

Happy Applying!!!




Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Point Earning Vacation


On my trip to San Diego, I hope to make it valuable point earning opportunity. In my previous post, I discussed that I will be earning plenty of miles off a cheap airfare on US Airways. However, there are other opportunities as well.

First, I will stop by the CNBC News store at DCA for a bottle of water and a magazine. Why? The CNBC News store is a partner of Thanks Again here. Thanks Again allows you to earn points for spending money at various airport vendors. I earn 1pt for every dollar spent at CNBC News store. What makes this sweeter is that Thanks Again is a partner of Delta and therefore, an opportunity for me to earn 500 bonus miles through my Delta Grand Slam (explanation here) – you will have to sign up for Thank You Again and register your credit card before making a purchase. 

Estimate amount spent: $6 

Estimated SkyMiles earned: 506

Second, when I arrive in San Diego, I will take a Super Shuttle to my hotel. Super Shuttle is also a partner to Delta, so I will earn the normal 50 SkyMiles for the ride plus my bonus of 500 SkyMiles for knocking off another partner award. The cost from the airport to my hotel is $8.00. However, I found a $2 off code here (the code I used was UFCJB, but there are other more valuable codes depending on your airport.) I left my driver a $2 or 25% tip. 

Amount spent: $8

Estimated SkyMiles earned: 550

The next point opportunity lies in my hotel stay. I will be using points for one night at the Four Points San Diego. However, I will hand over my Starwood Amex for any incidental charges. (This may or may not earn me points – depends on if I spend money at the hotel, maybe breakfast, as internet is provided free!) 

Estimated amount spent $??, 

Estimated Starwood points earned: ???

One of my meals, I will make sure I spend $25 at a Dining Rewards restaurant. Very Good Points blog has a great write up on dinging rewards. Dining Rewards is an amazing program. You earn miles by spending money at restaurants within the program. Normally, you can earn between 3 to 8 miles/points per dollar spent at participating restaurants including tax and top. With Delta's program, you earn 3 Skymiles miles per dollar spent. In addition, if you are not a member of Delta Dining Rewards (like me), you can earn a bonus of 1,200 Skymiles if you spend $25 within 30 days. (I am going to sign-up this week for Delta Dining Rewards). Spending $25.00 at a restaurant will net me a total of 1,275 Skymiles + 500 bonus Skymiles through the Delta Grand Slam. 

Estimated Amount spent: $25+

Estimated SkyMiles Earned: 1,275+

Somewhere in my trip, I will stop at McDonald’s because I have sync my card with one of Amex’s promotions, details here. I will get a $5 statement credit for spending $5+ at Mcdonald’s. Free Food :)

Estimate Amount spent $5+, 

Estimated Starwood Points earned: $1+ with a $5 statement credit

My second night will be spent at the Holiday Inn. By staying here, I will spend $150 on one night but net a total of around 10,000 Priority Club points, if not more. How? Well, one earns, as a non-elite, 10 per $1 spent. My hotel room will cost $150, so 1500 Priority Club points. Then, I have loaded a bunch of codes on my account (see this blog post from New Girl in the Sky) and that should net me between 7,000 and 9,000 points. This stay should get me very close to Gold Status for the year, which really only earns me more points per stay ie 25% bonus. I’ll let you know how this turns out. 

Estimate Amount spent: $150.00

Estimated Priority Club Points Earned: 9,500 to 11,500


In addition, I booked my stay at the Holiday Inn through the Chase’s Ultimate Reward Portal which offered an additional 4 points per dollar spent on Holiday Inn reservations. Therefore, I will net an additional 600 Ultimate Reward Points.

Estimate Amount spent: $0 (see above)

Estimated Ultimate Reward Points: 600

Since I am sitting in coach for this flight ( I told you I am a normal flyer), I will be hungry, so I will most likely buy some type of food on US Airway….gasp, paying for airplane food. I will use my new Barclays US Airways card and earn 1 point for every dollar spent. I bet I will spend about $10 on each flight. 

Estimate Round Trip Spend: $20

Estimate Points US Airways Miles Earned: 20


For the entire trip, I plan on earning approximately the following points/miles:

US Airways Miles: 9150         
Delta SkyMiles: $2330+ 
Priority Club Points: 9500+ 
Ultimate Rewards Points: 600
Starwood Points: ???

No bad for spending about $350. These totals do not count the points I will earn from placing the charges on my various credit cards, so they will defiantly be higher.

Did this take me time to figure out how to earn these points? Yes. 

Did I probably spend to much time thinking about this? Yes

Was it worth it? Oh, yeah!

By simple taking time before your trip, one can earn a massive amount of points afterwards. Yes, it takes time, but when you see the balances in your frequent flyer accounts increase, its well worth the time!

Happy Weekend Travels All!!!!







Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Time to start planning for next year?

Since this fall will mark my first official year as a miles and points collector I have not been able to make a real play at gaining status with one airline. But, I have been kicking around the idea of trying for status as soon as 2013 rolls around.

That got me thinking...when should you start planning for the next year? I did a little bit of research on ITA and found some great fares in the Jan-Feb time frame out of the WAS area so I am debating on pulling the trigger and starting the new year planning early.

What do y'all think? When do you start planning? Am I already behind?


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Delta Grand Slam – My Strategy for the Partner Section


Last week, I laid out the rules of the partner section of the Delta Grand Slam here. Now, I want to lay out my own strategy for this section.  As I learned in last year’s US Airways Grand Slam, it is always a good idea to have 1 or 2 safety hits, just in case one hit does not trigger the bonus.

Here are the 11 partners, I plan to use:

  1. Skymiles Shopping
  2. Thanks Again
  3. 1800 Flower/FTD (probably for my Grandmother)
  4. SkyMiles Dining
  5. eMiles
  6. Erewards
  7. Point.com Transfer
  8. Biscoff (I am addicted to their cookies)
  9. Point transfer from Club Carlson
  10. Supershuttle
  11. Hotel Stay, probably Hilton (double dip feature)

The list of 11 partners list above will become a road map, but a helpful reminder. For example, every time I need to buy something online, I will go to the Skymiles Shopping mall, to see if the merchant is apart of the online mall.

In addition, the list above helps in planning upcoming trips. For example, if I am between a Hilton hotel and another chain, knowing that I can get a hit from using Hilton’s double dip feature; will make me lean towards Hilton. Ditto on crediting a future car rental to Delta.

In a post to follow later in this week, I will detail how I am going to turn my upcoming trip to San Diego into a point earning bonanza including completing at least three partners list above. 

What's on your partner list fellow Delta Grand Slammers? 

Monday, September 17, 2012

BIG NEWS FROM DC

Warning: This post has nothing to do with points or travel.

I woke up to big news today. The National Zoo announced that the Mei Xiang had a baby panda last night around 10:30pm. As a Friend of the Zoo or FONZ, this is major news.

Here is a stock photo of mom:


Even though it will be weeks before the little guy/girl makes its debut, I am super excited. I may have to call out sick to go visit him.

Washingtonians love the Pandas. So the birth of this little guy, maybe bigger news than the Nationals on the berth of a baseball playoffs.

So my hat goes off to you Mei Xiang for giving me a major smile at the beginning of this week.

Now back to our regularly scheduled blog posts.




Who am I reading: Part 2 Electric Boogaloo

Since JD gave great list of who he reads on a regular basis yesterday , I figured that it was my turn to do the same thing!

One of the hardest parts of being in the points and miles game is just keeping track of the sheer number things that are going on at one time. Today there was a huge fare war  for flights to Hawaii that was almost at mileage run levels, 500 free Hilton points for watching a video and  U.S. Airways offering double EQMs for just flying. 

The easiest way I have found to keep up with all of the amazing blogs out there is to run an RSS feed with every blog I follow on a regular basis. I really like Google Reader and think it works for my "regular" news as well as my points and miles news. (I hope you will consider adding us to your RSS feed). 

Now, JD put together a great list of bloggers, and I have to say that you should read each and every one of them because they are all great at what they do. But, I wanted to put together a different list of people that I enjoy reading on a regular basis. 


The ladies of Heels First Travel are all kinds of awesome. They are also in the DC area, so I know that I can count on their knowledge if I have a question about their experiences flying out of DC. They also have the best primer on different ways to get to elite status that I have seen. It's really cool to see how they did it and the awesome mileage runs they have been on to just go to the beach for a couple of hours. 



The Wandering Aramean is someone that I love reading on their blog,  following on Twitter and interacting with on Milepoint. He has some great advice on points and miles, but also covers the airline industry some along with some trips to really cool places. He also has a really cool section of "travel tools" where you can set up seat alerts for different alliances and find airport information for lounges around the world. 


Another great Boarding Area blog...those guys know how to do it! What I especially love about Frequent Flying is his daily wrap up post for the best deals of the day. I also really enjoy Vintage Airline Seat Maps he does. It's so cool to see the old seat arrangements and trying to imagine what it was like to fly in "Clipper Class" on PanAm. 


I have written previously how Travel By Points got me inspired to make it to London on points and miles. He has been an awesome sounding board for my questions and his trip report from Machu Pechu is really awesome to look at. He is also great at finding the little deals that others miss. 

Who did I miss? Who should I be reading? Do you have a blog? Send me the info because I would love to give it a read! 


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Who am I reading at the moment?

To be successful in the frequent mile game, one must do his or her research. However, its extremely difficult to be on top of every deal, promotion or trick. To stay up to date, on the latest in the community, one must devote time each day to reading blogs.

If you are reading this blog, you have made the first step. Chris and I love you all for reading and supporting us, but we want to urge you to read other blogs as well. Due to the nature of our jobs, we aren't able to post during the work day about flash mileage runs or credit card offers.

On this lazy Sunday, due in large part to our activities on Saturday, we both will post about our what blogs we are following at the moment:

In no particular order:

I read almost everyone's blog on Boarding Area, but these are the ones I go to first:

New Girl In the Air - She is a twenty something, like me, who is addicted to this points hobby. She
                              always post simple, but valuable travel deals

Loyalty Traveler - He is the Guru of the Frequent Hotel Programs and Promotions. He writes solely
                           on hotel frequent stayer programs and their promotions. The level of analysis
                           that he devotes to his posts is mind blowing. Great search function if you are
                           looking for a particular deal.

Just Another Points Traveler - Similar to the New Girl (above), my age and economic status,
                                             who aspires to travel the world.

Delta Points - All things about Delta. Since, I am new to Delta, he has been added to my list.

Mommy Points - Talks about the trials and tribulations of traveling with a young one. I read her
                         because it reminds me daily why I don't want to have kids. Little "C", her
                         daughter, is an angle on most trips, but its all the extra work to go somewhere
                         that makes me want to say "no thanks" to kids. Also, she is great about posting
                         promotions and deals in real time.

View from the Wing - As I stated before here, Gary and his blog were my gateway drug. He was
                                the first blog, I ever read and a must read. He talks about everything and
                                anything about what  is happening in our community. Not always a place to
                                find the latest deals, but always a blog that makes you thinking about
                                something in a different way.

I use to read the blog site, Upgrd, religiously, but the bloggers talk about the same stuff all the time: trip reports. Now, I check in once and a while, but I try to follow Doublewides Fly. Rocky, is a young kid, who loves to travel and asks the questions, we are all thinking, like "Is complaining to United Even Worth It?"

I read a few independent blogs:

The Points Guy -  overall a great general blog. He goes deep into travel promotions to determine if
                          they are valuable or not. In addition, he answers reader's questions on Sundays.


Michael W. Travels - Michael frequently blogs about contests to win points and trips. I have never
                               won, but they say, you can't win if you don't enter.

One final blog, you must read is Straight Guy in the Queer Sky. This blog has nothing to do with travel points, but shows the other side of travel, a flight attendant. He is an inspiration for me to travel the world.

Those are a few of the blogs I read, who are you reading now?


Saturday, September 15, 2012

Will Travel for College Football

Chris, our friends and I are big college football fans. Unfortunately, our alma mater has never had a football team (AU: still undefeated in football!), so Saturdays in the Fall has always been spent in front of the TV. However, in the past few years, we have been trying to travel to a different college football game each month throughout the season.


This year our plan is to hit up three or four different games:

Today, we went to University of Maryland vs. University of Connecticut  (Go Huskies!)






October – Penn State vs. Northwestern @ Penn State

November – North Carolina vs Georgia Tech @ North Carolina

December – Division 3 Football Championship (Salam, Va – always been my dream!)

The problem of traveling to these football games is that most times, we need to purchase hotel rooms to stay at and hotels near football stadiums are not cheap. For example, for our Penn State weekend, one of the only places available near State College was the Country Inn & Suites. The cost per night was $399 or 44,000 Club Carlson points. My friend asked, “why do you have these points if you aren’t going to use them?” Far point, but would you spend 44,000 points on the Country Inn & Suite in State College, PA:





or the Radisson Acqua Hotel & Spa Concon, Chile:


or Radisson Blu, Dakar, Senegal:



The Radisson Acqua Hotel & Spa Concon and Radisson Blu, Dakar, both charged between $350 to $375 USD a night. Therefore, the point per dollar value favors Country Inn & Suite, State College slightly. This brings up a big question, is point per dollar really the right mechanism to determine value. I think its a personal choice. For me, I think point per dollar is overrated. If the Country Inn & Suites is your only option, then spending 44,000 points is a great value. However, for that particular weekend, we will stay at a hotel further away from the State College and pay $200 a night, a much better value.

Oh, the final score of the game today:


Go Huskies! Oh, Maryland, you can keep Coach Edsall, we don't need him any more!


Friday, September 14, 2012

We need your travel suggestions: Denver and Chicago

I figured this would be a good post to talk about the travel that I have for the rest of the year since you have heard about JD's last minute trip to San Diego coming up.

Once I got Kelsey hooked on trips using miles and points it was hard to slow her down enough to build in a pause for our fall travel schedule so September and October finds us just having one weekend actually at home.

This month we will be heading to Denver and Chicago and we need your help!

What should we do in Denver and Chicago?

I used to go Denver ever summer on the way to my grandparent's cabin in beautiful Estes Park, but I haven't been back in 5 or 6 years.

What places should we visit? What restaurants should we try? What bars should we head to?

As for Chicago we will be meeting up with Kelsey's family and a few of her friends...what's a good local place to try downtown?

We need you to pitch in and let us know what things we should try and where we can't miss!

PS - I've been meaning to add this in...but if you are heading to DC anytime soon...let me know and if I am free I would love to meet other points and miles fanatics and show you my city!


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Time To Live Up To The Name of the Blog – Kind of


Chris and I named this blog “Do It for the Points,” but we haven’t really discussed doing anything for the sole purpose of the earning points. I am going to change that. I hope this to be the first of many posts like this:

One day at work I received a text message from Chris:

Chris:               Heads up. US Air is running temporary discount to San Diego for 130RT from DCA on Sept. 18-26. But
                          there are only 30 per segment at that price. I can’t go but figured you might be interested. It’s until 4pm
                          today or until they sell. Out

Me:                  Yeah…I have sent these. Haven’t seen one that has interested me yet. Thanks for the heads up.

Chris:               No worries

I then went back to work. In the back of my head, the point section of my brain was saying “Do it, Do It.”
Next thing I know, I was on US Airways website to see what was still available. 

I then texted Chris back:

Me: I have a flight ready to go…Sat to Mon…. Do I pull the trigger?

Chris: Yes, do it. It would be fun

Chris: You have 24 hours to cancel I believe

I wait five minutes and then the addict me had me taking out my credit card to book the trip. Then, I had to call the boss to ask for the day off. I always do that, book first and beg the boss later for time off. (One day that is going to bite me in the ass).

Back to the trip, every time I tell people about this trip the conversation goes something like this:

Who you going to San Diego with?  Me, myself and I - all on one ticket!

Oh, are you going to visit someone? Nope

Are you going to see something specific? No not really

Where are you staying?  No, idea.

Oh, ok, umm... can I ask why you are going then? Well, I got this great fare of $130 and I will earn about 9000 miles (4500 actual miles flown, plus US Airways was having a promotion (expired now) that doubled miles for flights to and from DCA)

The truth is I have no plan for San Diego.  If people have suggestions of things to do or places to eat, please leave me a comment, I would really appreciate it.

In regards to where I am staying, I have book two nights using Starwood points, but that was just to lock something down. I have a feeling I am going to cancel them and probably pay to stay at two different hotels (aka hotel mattress hopping). I’ll deal with that next week.

So, I am doing the San Diego trip for the points!!!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Half the Battle is Knowing What You Have!

Two weeks ago I headed out to Seattle to visit my parents. (Hi mom - thanks for being at least one page view on the blog :) ) We had a great visit and perfect weather, 70s and clear unlike the swamp that is DC.

During our visit I was talking to my parents about the latest travel project Kelsey and I have going on. I think they are a bit skeptical of the hobby, but have seen the plans slowly come together into great trips for a little bit of money. In an effort to get them started in earning points and miles I figured the best thing to do was to see what they were working with.

In various travels I know that my parents have signed up for frequent flyer and hotel programs, but we had no idea if they even had points to use!

I signed them up with AwardWallet, which if you have not used I would highly recommend, which is a great program to track your frequent flyer, hotel, car and retail programs.

The real challenge came when they brought out their frequent flyer information....which was really just a binder full of papers and old cards. I found a few cards that I think will be of great use, Northwest and  Continental :p, so I had to tease them a bit about that.

But once all of their information was entered, I was shocked to see what was in the account!

Between the two of them they had close to 27,000 United miles and are very close to a free roundtrip on Frontier.

On the hotel front, they are in even better position! They have 50,000 points with Hilton and 57,000 with Marriott. Even better, my dad is a Platinum Member with Marriott.

Signing them up for AwardWallet excited them, they knew that they had lots of points that can be used on trip in the future and it will make traveling a little easier....and a little less costly. So....even if you are starting from scratch, or helping others start from scratch in the miles and points hobby....make sure you check to see what they already have. They may farther along to low cost travel than you realize!

New Features Coming on Oct. 1 to the Hyatt Credit Card

I just received the following message in my inbox from Hyatt with regards to my Chase Hyatt Credit Card: 


"On October 1, your Hyatt Credit Card will offer brand new features that can make your purchases and Hyatt stays even more rewarding. As an existing cardmember, you will be able to enjoy these features as soon as they launch – you do not need to register or reapply.

EARN MORE HYATT GOLD PASSPORT POINTS

Your Hyatt Credit Card could help you earn more Hyatt Gold Passport® points than ever before, whether you’re dining at your favorite neighborhood restaurant or flying around the world.
new Earn 2 Hyatt Gold Passport points for every $1 spent at restaurants, on airline tickets when purchased directly from the airline, and at car rental agencies.1
Plus, you’ll continue to earn 3 Hyatt Gold Passport points for every $1 spent at Hyatt properties worldwide and 1 Hyatt Gold Passport point for every $1 spent elsewhere.1
There’s no limit to the number of points you can earn, and points never expire. Use your Hyatt Credit Card for all of your purchases, and see how quickly your points add up.

ENJOY ELITE STATUS

As a Hyatt Credit Cardmember, you’re entitled to Hyatt Gold Passport Platinum membership for as long as you are a cardmember.2
new You’ll also have an opportunity to earn and maintain Diamond status—our highest level of membership—more easily. When you spend the following amounts in a calendar year, we will award you with credits towards Diamond status:3
    $ 20,000 annually = 2 stay / 5 night credits
    $ 40,000 annually = an additional 3 stay / 5 night credits
Diamond status is achieved by completing either 25 stays or 50 nights at Hyatt properties each calendar year. Use your Hyatt Credit Card for every purchase and you’ll be even closer to enjoying all of the benefits of our most elite level of  membership."

So, it looks like Hyatt is joining other partners with the ability to spend your way to Diamond status. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Delta Grand Slam – Partners Section


As I have previously written, I am participating in a mini Grand Slam with Delta. Under this promotion, we earn 500 bonus miles for each unique partner one participates with within your first year of membership. You can earn 10 of these bonuses for a total of 5000 bonus miles.

One of the best ways to attack this section of the new member challenge is to map out one strategy from the beginning. The rules for this unique partner awards section are as followed:

Unique Partner Activity: Earn 500 bonus miles for each unique partner activity–up to 10 partners–for a total of up to 5,000 bonus miles. A partner activity is defined as an activity which earns 1+ miles within 12 months after enrollment. A Delta Buy Miles purchase and a partner points to miles conversion transaction are considered eligible unique activities. Converting hotel partner points to miles and a stay/activity with the same hotel partner do not count as two activities. Delta SkyMiles Credit Card is not eligible. Flight activity on partner airlines is not eligible for this promotion.

Promotion Partner List: Offer includes Hotel Partners, Check Card Partners, Dining, Retail, and other partners: SkyMilesShopping.com qualifies as only one activity, SkyMiles Dining by Rewards Network qualifies as only one activity, participation with a SkyMiles incentive partner qualifies as only one activity, and SkyMiles Shopping
UK qualifies as only one activity. Promotion partners also include: Buy, Gift or Transfer Miles; Points to Miles Transfers; Membership Rewards®; Diners Club®; Puntos de Oro; SuperBĂ´nus Program and Club de Beneficios; Internet & Telephone Partners, Real Estate & Financial Partners, Vacation and Cruise Partners. For a complete list of partners, please see delta.com/partneroffers.


The rules for this section provide us with valuable information:

1)      You can earn as little as 1 mile to trigger the bonus
2)      Partner to miles conversion (ie hotel points to SkyMiles) count as unique activities
3)      You can not credit a hotel stay from “X hotel chain” and transfer points from the same “X hotel frequent account”. For example, crediting a Hilton hotel stay and transferring Hilton points into SkyMiles counts as 1 transaction, not 2 transactions.
4)      Getting a Delta Skymiles Credit Card does not count as a transaction in this section
5)      Flying a partner airline and crediting it to Delta does not count as a transaction
6)      Purchasing something through SkyMilesShopping.com only counts as one transaction
7)      Dining through SkyMiles Dining qualifies as only one activity
8)      Buying, Gifting or Transferring Miles counts as unique activities

The biggest thing I have received out of the rules is that 1 mile triggers the bonus. This makes for some very easy and cheap transactions, which I will highlight in other posts.


With the rules out of the way, lets look at the various partners:

Car Rentals/Limo/Shuttles:

Hertz
Alamo
Avis
Budget
Carmel Car Service
EuroCar
E-Z Rent A Car
National
Sixt
Super Shuttle

Major US Hotel Chains

Hilton
ING
Marriott
Starwood
Accor Wyndam
Hyatt
Carlson
Choice Hotels
Best Western
La Quinta
Red Roof Inn
The Ritz Carlton

International and Smaller Hotel Chains:

Melia, Shangri-La, Langham, Taj, Almond, Concorde , Delta Chelsea HotelToronto
Hotel Emperador – Buenos Aires, Hotel JAL City, The Leading Hotels of the World
Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Maritim Hotels, Millennium Hotel Group, New Otani Hotel, Nikko Hotels International, Okura Hotels & Resorts, Pan Pacific Hotels & Resorts
Rotana, World Hotels

Flowers/Gifts: 

1800 Gift Baskets
1800 Flowers
FTD.com
Biscoff
Organic Bouquet
Teleflora
Vinessa Wine Club

Shopping: 

SkyMall
Skymiles Shopping
Thanks Again

Travel Related: 
AmericanPassport.com
VisaCenter.com
Hartmann Luggage
Boingo Wireless
Travelling Connect

Dining:  
SkyMiles Dinning Rewards

Heath & Wellness:  
Nutrisystem
Organic  Style
SpaFinder Wellness

Financial:  
Fidelity Investments
Sentry Insurance (only available residents of AZ, CO, IL, IN, KS, MN, OH, TN, & WI)
ShareBuilder

Entertainment: 
Bose
Audience Rewards
getAbstract
Netflix

Point Earning/Transfer:  
eMiles
eRewards
Points.com

Other:  
Energy Plus
FEDEX
Georgia Natural Gas
Ohio Natural Gas
Network Solutions
The Whiteboard
PetCar RX

International Partners:

Skymiles Shopping Asia
Skymiles Shopping Canada
Skymiles Shopping Latin
Skymiles Shoping Japan
Triple J
Skymiles Dining Japan
Shell Lucky 7 Passport  (Guam & Saipan)
NetMile (Japan)

I did not add direct links to the individual partners, because I have heard reports that people did not get mileage credit for their purchases because the links did not register their entrance.To find partner links, go here . 

As a reminder, we have 12 months from our registration date to complete 10 partner rewards to get the 500 mile bonus. There is no rush to accomplish all 10 tonight.

In my next Delta Grand Slam post, I will lay out which 10 partners I plan on targeting. With a plan, we can start to tailor our spending habits to accomplish these partner rewards with minimal effort. 

Until the next post, start strategizing. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Help us plan a trip for December!

Ok....here comes the interactive part of the program...you ready?

We need your help to decide where to go this December. JD, Kelsey and I are all planning on going on vacation from around December 22-30 and want to experience a new destination.

We all have enough for a round-trip on a oneworld carrier and have four free nights with Hyatt and a few free nights at Hilton as well.

Being around the holiday season we all realize that the availability is going to be scarce and that we may have to chase the availability and not the destination. Our original plan was to head Down Under to Australia, but those hopes were quickly dashed. Our next option is to head to Asia, but the availability seems to be very scarce there as well. The next option is to try and head to South America and finally to Europe if nothing is available anywhere else.

If you were planning our trip...where would you want to go? What destination are you dying to go to...or what place have you wanted to go back to? We need your help!!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Delta Really Wants Me to Fly On Them (Targeted Offer)


On Thursday, I received an email from Delta offering me an additional 1,000 Skymiles and $100 e-certificate toward a Delta Vacations if I book a flight by November 6th and fly by December 6th.

The terms of this promotion are here:

Eligibility: Only members who receive this communication directly from Delta Air Lines are eligible to participate in this offer. This offer is non–transferable. To participate in this offer, eligible members must register online by November 6, 2012. Members must register for this offer before taking a qualifying flight to be eligible for bonus miles. 

Validity: Purchase and fly one qualifying Delta marketed and operated flight at 
delta.com between September 6, 2012 and December 6, 2012, and earn 1,000 bonus miles. A qualifying flight includes any Delta or Delta Connection® carrier flight. Codeshare flights operated by carriers other than the Delta Connection carriers are excluded from this offer. Bonus miles do not count toward Medallion® qualification or Million Miler™ status. 

Mileage: Earn a one–time 1,000–mile bonus for purchasing a qualifying flight at 
delta.com. 

Travel Period: Travel must be between
September 6, 2012 and December 6, 2012. All travel must be completed by December 6, 2012. 

The terms and conditions do not mention if the qualifying flight has to be roundtrip. However, to play it safe, I am going to do a round trip.

What makes this a sweet promotion is that it fits perfectly with the new membership promotion aka Delta Grand Slam that I talk about here. If you are signed up with the new member promotion, you receive bonus Skymiles for your first five trips. If you combine the two together, you can rake in some real Skymiles simply for flying.

For example, if you have never flown with Delta and are registered for both promotions (new member and this new one), your first flight would earn you the following:

5,000 (new member bonus 1st flight) + 1,000 (this new promotion) = 6,000 + actual miles flown.

For me, linking the two promotions would look like this for my next flight (my second on Delta):

2,500 (new member bonus flights 2-5) + 1,000 (this bonus)  = 3,500 miles + actual miles flown

The terms and conditions do not restrict you from getting bonuses from two offers. Warning, I have not tried earning bonus points from these two bonuses, Delta might try to limit you to one bonus. Let’s cross our fingers and fight with Delta later, if we need to.

If you want to see if you qualify for this promotion, go here.

The rules state this is a targeted offer to those who received an email. However, it can’t hurt to try to see if you qualify, even if you did not receive an email. I asked a few friends to try and only one qualified, so YMMV.

With this new promotion, I think its time for me to start searching for a mileage run in the next 90 days….3,500 bonus miles + actual miles flown makes almost any cheap fare a great mileage run!