Saturday, November 30, 2013

Huffington Post: 7 Ways Travel Makes You Healthier

Huffington Post has put out a list of 7 Ways Travel Makes Your Healthier.

I have always believed that travel has immense benefits. After trips, I always feel so much better, but mental health is only one of the benefits of travel.

Improve Your Social Skills 
Meeting new people is one of the great upsides of traveling. Whether it's chatting up your hostel roommate, making small talk with your seat-mate on a train or having a lively discussion at a local bar, you will be forced to improve your social skills. If new situations tend to make you anxious, traveling is a sure way to take steps toward reducing that anxiety.
Reduce Stress

But while staying home and resting is a worthy use of your time off, traveling removes you from your everyday life and lets you truly escape. Traveling lets you put aside your daily responsibilities and focus on yourself for a moment. When you return home you'll feel refreshed and have the motivation you felt drained of before you left.
Accomplish Goals

Having a travel "to-do" list and slowly crossing things off that list keeps you motivated and positive. That list can include things like visiting certain locations or accomplishing a feat such as climbing a mountain or becoming conversational in the language of your next destination. Achieving those goals also increases confidence and gives a sense of success.
Stay Fit

Let's say while traveling you get lured into taking a hike with beautiful panoramic views. You go, it's not too strenuous and the experience takes your breath away. Now you want more -- harder hikes with even better pay off. While home, you exercise and prepare for more challenging hikes. You're healthier and fitter than ever and you get to look forward to accomplishing new goals.
Become More Flexible

Sometimes things don't go according to plan while traveling. Maybe your flight is cancelled or it rains the day you're scheduled to go on an epic outdoor adventure. It's okay -- there are other flights to take (or trains, or buses) and maybe on that rainy day you'll discover a hidden bookstore to explore or an adorable cafe to experience. Traveling helps you be more flexible and open-minded, making you more zen in your everyday life.
Become More Patient

Travel can involve a lot of waiting. You'll wait in lines. You'll wait for flights. You'll wait at restaurants. Learning how to cope with those waits, how to make conversation with those you're waiting with and how to stay calm in frustratingly slow situations will teach you how to remain patient and calm in all situations.
Have Better Relationships
Surveys have shown that couples who travel together report more intimate relationships and better sex lives. While travel can't make you have a good relationship, it can strengthen it. Being free of responsibilities like doing the dishes and walking the dog helps you relax together and focus on each other.

I am a big big fan of travel. For weeks before a trip, I am so excited to go. And when I return, I am so relaxed and energized. Travel is an amazing thing that produces so many benefits.
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Friday, November 29, 2013

Why I Am Not Getting TSA PreCheck On My Southwest Flights?

Last week, Southwest announced that they are joining TSA Prechcek.

I am a big fan of TSA Precheck and was excited that Southwest was joining. Over the next few weeks, I have a ton of travel on Southwest and not having to take my laptop out of its sleeve is a big help.

Therefore, I was a little disappointed that I did not get Precheck on my fight to Connecticut for Thanksgiving. When I arrived at BWI, the C Concourse Precheck line had no one. I mean no one in it. However, my boarding pass didn't have that great little sign like this:

I sent out this tweet while waiting in security:

A few hours later, I got this response from the Press Secretary for TSA, Ross Feinstein:

Here is the link to the TSA Blog post he mentions.

Reading the post, one of the suggestions stood out:
  • Didn’t enter their full name: first, middle and last name. These should match:

    • TSA Pre✓™ participants who qualify via their membership in a CBP Trusted Traveler program should enter their full name — first, middle and last — exactly as it appears on their Global Entry card or in their Global Online Enrollment System (GOES) account, along with their date of birth, gender, and nine digit Membership Number / PASS ID when making a reservation for travel. A reservation made with a name that does not exactly match a passenger's Global Entry card or GOES account will result in the passenger not being considered for TSA Pre✓™ expedited screening. If you click the “manage membership” button when logged into your GOES account, it will direct you to the page in the image below where you’ll be able to ensure your account info — under the personal information section — matches the information in your travel reservation and your frequent flyer program: first, middle and last name fields.
    • You should make sure your airline frequent flyer profile and any current and/or future reservations matches this information. You may have to reach out directly to your carrier to make sure this information is correct and consistent, especially your first, middle and last name. You should ask them to update your profile information and/or saved Secure Flight data.

You see my legal name isn't JD. Its a name that was created by my elementary school. I quickly went to my Southwest Rapid Reward profile, sure enough my name at Southwest is JD:

However, Southwest doesn't make it easy to change your name. You have to mail them paperwork:

The other few times I got Precheck, I was flying United and US Airways. In both instances, my name on my frequent flyer account is JD. So, I don't necessarily know if this is the reason why I did not get it this time. Southwest has setup a whole webpage for Precheck, which can be found here. Reading through the page, I came across this tidbit:

Could it Prechek be for only new reservation made after Southwest getting into the program? I hope this is the reason and not my name. Regardless, I will forward the required paperwork to Southwest to change my name.

Has anyone had luck with Precheck on Southwest?

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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Last year, I wrote that I was thankful for being an American citizen and everything that being an American stands for. As a wrote, being an American citizen ensures security and a hope of a brand new day.

This year, I am a still thankful for being an American citizen. However, I am extremely thankful for the blog and you, the readers.

This past year has been one of transition in my day job. Transition from a assistant into a junior. The transition hasn't been easy. The one thing that kept me going was Do It For The Points. The blog has become my outlet at nights. It clears my head. For a small period of time each night, I am able to put things aside and focus on my hobby. A hobby that I love. A hobby that I eat, drink and sleep.

What really has kept me going is the interaction with you. Your emails, your comments, your tweets....each interaction wants me to continue seeking out new ways to maximize points.

On this Thanksgiving, I want to thank you.

Thank you for coming back day after day to the blog.

Thank you for letting me be part of your day.

Mostly, thank you for keeping me going and letting me escape for a few minutes each night.
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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Which One of My Friends Is Coming On Vacation With Me?

I am days away from embarking on my trip to Argentina. One of my last decisions to make is which of my friends is making the trip with me. As I have previously written, I have a love/hate relationship with my credit cards.

On this trip, I hope not to have to use credit cards often. Due to the economy in Argentina, US Dollars are getting a premium in a black market known as Dolar Blue. The current government exchange rate is $1 = 6.1 pesos compared to $1 = 9.85 pesos at Dolar Blue. For this reason, I might be paying for everything in cash. However, traveling with credit cards is a must. The only things I can foresee using credit cards there is for hotels, expensive meals and /or large purchases.

Now back to the question, which friends (credit cards) do I take with me?

The credit cards I have are:

Alaska Airways
US Airways
Delta AMEX
Hilton AMEX
Southwest Premier
Club Carlson
Chase Ink
Debit Card
Banana Republic
US Airways World
Chase Sapphire

The number one thing I am looking for in a credit card is one with no foreign transaction fees. The following cards offer that benefit:

Chase Ink
Chase Sapphire

As we can see, my Chase credit cards are the ones without foreign transaction fees.

The next criteria is to look at what I will be charging: hotels in Miami area &n Buenos Aires, restaurants and some transportation, etc. Looking at my spending needs, lets look at what I will earn:

IHG - 5x at IHG hotels, 2x at Restaurants

Hyatt - 2x at Restaurants

Southwest - 1x on all spending

Ink - 2x at Hotels

United - 1x on all spending

Chase Sapphire - 2x at Restaurants, Hotels, Transportation

With this information, my Hyatt, Southwest and United credit cards provide no real benefit for my travel needs. That leaves the following:




Final Decision:

I am going to bring three cards with me: IHG, Sapphire and my debit card.


The Ink Bold provides the same benefits (2x on hotels) as the Sapphire. However, the Sapphire offers 2X on transportation and restaurants that the INK does not.

Why the debit card?

To take out cash. Its always smart to bring a debit card with you. Cash is king in many societies and your ability to access it is key. Before you leave, you should notify your bank that you are traveling overseas. Failure to do so could result in your debit card being frozen and your access to cash cut off. To get your card back in order, a phone call must be made to your bank's security department. While overseas this could be costly and timely and even then they might not turn your card back on.

Sapphire and IHG pack your passports, we are going on vacation.
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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

I Am An Overpacker

Yup, I am an overpacker. Doesn't matter if its a mileage run, weekend getaway or a week long trip. I always seem to bring way way way to many things.

Here is 1/2 of what I plan on bringing to Argentina:

Over the next few days, I hope to pear down the amount of things I eventually pack. BridgeStreet Residences had three easy steps to avoid over packing:

Multiple Use

Over packing tends to occur when you try to get it all done at the last minute. Because you may not have the time to figure out exactly what you need, you'll bring whatever you think necessary, and in your haste, it might end up being too much. However, having a good plan to follow when packing can eliminate any of this uncertainty. Figuring out exactly what you'll need, and how much you'll need, will not only make the packing process go more smoothly but also reduce the chances of packing too much.

Plan ahead

Over packing tends to occur when you try to get it all done at the last minute. Because you may not have the time to figure out exactly what you need, you'll bring whatever you think necessary, and in your haste, it might end up being too much. However, having a good plan to follow when packing can eliminate any of this uncertainty. Figuring out exactly what you'll need, and how much you'll need, will not only make the packing process go more smoothly but also reduce the chances of packing too much.

Stick to One Bag

If you approach packing with no limits placed just how many bags you're going to bring, you'll be more inclined to bring some items that may not be necessities. Experts from TLC suggest taking just one carry-on bag and one checked bag with you. This way, you'll be more likely to focus on the essentials and less inclined to bring an extra pair of shoes or a large number of sweaters to choose from. 

I am going to try to use these three tips in the next few days to pare down my clothes for the trip.

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Marriott to Open Hotel In Bosnia & Herzegovina

Bosnia & Herzegovina is a country in transition. After a long period of war, independence and reconciliation, the country is starting to make move into tourism destination.

One big step towards becoming a tourism destination is attracting international hotel chains. When international hotel chains are willing to invest money into your country, this signals stability. Average tourists need that idea of stability to come to visit.

Early this month, Marriott announced that they plan to open its first hotel, a Residence Inn, in Bosnia and Herzegovina. "The 75-suite Residence Inn Sarajevo is expected to open in late 2014 and will operate as a Marriott franchise, owned by SEIC Hospitality and managed by Interstate Hotels & Resorts." The hotel will be located 20 minutes from the airport, near the old city.

While studying abroad, I had the opportunity to visit Sarajevo. My class stayed at the famed Holiday Inn.
During the war, the Holiday Inn was where the international journalist stayed. The hotel was bombed and half the hotel became uninhabitable.
Don't be confused by the name, Holiday Inn Hotel Sarajevo. The hotel no longer has affiliation with the Holiday Inn/IHG Group. The Holiday Inn Hotel is quite a distance from the old town, where the majority of attractions are located. Therefore, the location for the Residence Inn maybe a better place to say. However, if you visit Sarejvo, you must visit the Holiday Inn for a drink. It has a place in the city's dark history.

For those you are interested, National Geographic Magazine named Sarajevo as a must see city in 2014. 

Maybe I need to add Sarajevo to my list of places to revisit!

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Best & Worst Airlines for Holiday Travel and Flightaware teamed up to put together a list of the best and wort airlines for Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday. Flightaware used arrival delays, rather than departure, delays from 2010 through 2012.

I was impressed that the metric was arrival delays; rather than departure delays. Typically, departure delays are used to determine an airline's on-time level. However, the article correctly pointed out, "it is sometimes possible for airlines to make up time lost on the ground while the plane is in the sky." In additon, the Forbes learned that" late arrivals actually declined during the Thanksgiving travel season — just 12 percent of Thanksgiving flights were delayed last year, compared with 19 percent in 2010. according to the Transportation Department."

Now the Best List:

1. Hawaiian Airlines
2. Alaskan Airlines
3. Mesa Airlines
4. Airtran Airlines
5. US Airways
As you see, 3.5 of the 5 airlines operate West of Rockies (The 1/2 is US Airways due to their AmericanWest merger). The location of where an airline operates can have drastic effect of on-time ratings.

Looking at the list of worst on-time airlines, you will notice that they operate heavily in the Midwest or out of big traffic heavy airports

And the Worst List

5. American Eagle
4. American Airlines
3. Frontier Airlines
2. Express Jet
1. JetBlue
" 'With 75 percent of our flights touching the Northeast, either New York or Boston, one delay in the morning can affect the entire line of flying for that airplane,' said Jenny Dervin, a JetBlue spokeswoman. And, the Northeast is particularly affected by the kind of winter storms that delay flights."

Should these lists change who you choose to fly over the holidays? My opinion is no. Airline delays is like stock picking. You can do all the research in the world, but there are always external factors outside your control. The only thing you can do is pack your patience. Bring a smile, your patience and some holiday cheer and you will be at your destination in no time.

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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Fandango Gift Card Promotion

Last night after work, I really really want to go see Hunger Games. I am a big Hunger Games fan. I have read all of the books twice. Yes, one of my guilt little pleasures.

Yesterday was the opening of the movie and as a dum dum, I forgot to reserve tickets in advance. When I went online all the shows were sold out except the after-midnight showings. I was exhausted at 8pm and didn't think I would be able to stay up until 12:45 for the movie. So, I made the most rational decision, go see another movie beforehand!

The other movie I was to see was Delivery Man with Vince Vaughn.

The problem was that both were not playing at the same movie theater. Delivery Man started at 9:45, at one movie theater and Hunger Games, at another across town at 12:45. Luckily, I had an hour between the two.

Movies are expensive to watch at movie theaters. I remember my hometown had a $0.99 movie theater than ran movies 4 months after they came out. It was wonderful. Movies today can cost $12.00.

When I was booking my tickets, I remembered that Fandango was having a sale on gift cards. If you had a Visa Signature card, you got 20% off gift cards.

My Chase Sapphire and Business Southwest credit cards both have the Visa Signature logo on them. My guess is that you have a card as well. with the logo. To use the promotion, go here.

With the discount, I got $25 worth of movies for $20. Within a minute of ordering the gift card, I got an email with the code to purchase my tickets. Buying the two tickets cost me $26.50 ($12 a ticket plus $1.25 convenience fee for both). So $21.50 after the 20% discount. Not bad for an extra few minutes worth of work.

Both movies are worth seeing. I wish Delivery Man was a little more funny, but I still left with a smile on my face. On the other hand, Hunger Games was fantastic even with them skipping some MAJOR parts from the book. cough cough THE POCKET WATCH cough cough.

Go to the movies and save some $$$ with the Fanadango Gift Card Promotion. Another secondary benefit of your credit card that you already have.

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Amtrak Train Gets Lost

Earlier this week, a train from Harrisburg, PA headed towards New York City got lost in the suburbs of Pennsylvania.
According to the Huffington Post, an "Amtrak train carrying 130 people got lost last week after it traveled too far backward while turning around and ended up on local tracks in the suburbs of Philadelphia. The train . . . experienced a mechanical issue in the undercarriage of the front cab car, where the driver was."

Amtrak spokesman Craig Schulz told The Huffington Post Wednesday over the phone, "In an attempt to complete its trip, the train had to turn around so that the locomotive in the back could be at the front."

My favorite part of the whole story is that the conductor of the train had to ask for directions to get back to Philly. "The lumbering Amtrak eventually reached the Bala Cynwyd, Pa., SEPTA station. It came to a stop and received directions to come back to Philadelphia, where passengers were put on a separate train to New York."

Conclusion of the story: Everyone Makes Mistakes!

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I Pulled The Trigger

Last month, I asked the question, "should I pay for ambassador status?" Overall, the response that I received was a resounding yes!

For the next six weeks, I sat on making the decision. I wasn't positive that I wanted to pull the trigger. Paying 32,000 points or $200 is a lot for status that I might use infrequently.

Last weekend, I pulled the trigger and spent 32,000 points on the Ambassador status. My decision to use points rather than cash was easy decision. Due to the IHG's The Big Win Promotion, I have a good stash of points.

Four days after I applied, I received this email:

My status with IHG already reflects the ambassador status:

My first stay at an Intercontinental Hotel is next week. I am excited to see what the status gets me . . .
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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Southwest Joins The Party

I received an email letting me know that Southwest is now approved for gate to gate electronic use.

Southwest was the last of the major US carriers to get approved for gate to gate service.

Unlike the other carriers, Southwest will allow use of their WIFI system from Gate to Gate. According to USA Today, passenger airline carriers with Gogo in-flight service will still have to wait until cross the 10,000 feet threshold. This is a major advantage for Southwest.

I am a big fan of Southwest's WIFI  / DirectTV system. I wrote about it here.

Southwest has a major advantage that their WIFI system starts at the gate!
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Fage Coupon Winners

Early this week, I announced a small giveaway for free coupons for Fage Greek Yoguart.

Now time to announce the winners:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks for all those you participated!

All the winners have been contact via email.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

HELP! Going to Buenos Aires

I just noticed that I am headed to Buenos Aires in less than 10 days.

Yup, this trip kind a crept up on me. I am taking my mother on her first international trip. However, I have failed to do research on what do there, where to eat or see.

So, I am asking for some help....

Have you been to the Paris of the South? Know of some great resource.

Any guidance would be appreciated!
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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Air Travelers Spend More At Airports

NBC News reports that air travelers are spending more money on the ground.

According to a Airports Council International - North American (ACI-NA) 2012 study, departing passengers at North American airports median amount spent was $5.15 on food and beverage and $3.31 on retail items.

In 2011, passengers spent an average of $5.00 on food and beverage and $3.31 on retail items. Those same numbers in 2010 were $4.69 and $2.91 respectively.

The numbers seem low to me. That could be because I tend to spend closer to $10-$15 at each airport. But I am an abnormal traveler. My guess is that there are lots of travelers that spend little to anything at airports. I just not one of them.

The article goes on to mention that the FAA reports that "travelers spent $553 million on food and beverage items and $630 million on retail items during 2012 in U.S. airports alone." Over 1 billion was spent at airports in 2012 by travelers. We are talking about significant money here.

To entice travelers to spend more at airports, many airports have signed up for Thanks Again. The Thanks Again program offers miles for every dollar spent at participating airport stores. To start earning points at airports, you need to register your credit card at Thanks Again. I have earned many points via Thanks Again in the past few months.

Another major trend mentioned by the article is the increase in vending machines. These aren't your parents candy and soda vending machines:

Sam's Club
No, these vending machines sell a wide range of items. From Best Buy Express machine that sells a wide variety of electronics:

To the Automatic Apparel kiosk, which dispenses T-shirt, socks, underwear as well as sunglasses, roll-up ballet flats, and toiletries - all at prices under $15.

The ability to buy a clean shirt/underwear on a mileage run makes me happy. Similarly, "cosmetics companies have set-up kioks, 3FLOZ has kiosks selling travel-sized items at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and four other airports."

Why is having places for people to spend money at airports important? Because its extra income for the airport. Also, people need something to do when they are bored. Airports can be boring places. Have a long layover, shop for gifts and eat great food. When people are bored, they tend to spend money. Better offer good stuff for people to buy.

Win, Win for airports. 

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Monday, November 18, 2013

American Airline's Facebook Promotion

American Airlines has a promotion on Facebook celebrating their new Airbus A321 Transcontinental planes.

American Airlines would like to get 321,000 new "likes." Once they hit that number, they will award 25,000 miles to people who liked them. The teaser is that every minute the promotion is live, 100 gets deducted from the prize pool.

At 11:30 pm Eastern, on 11/18, the prize pool was down to

And they are short by

This is promotion is one that requires the community to come together. The more people that enter, the more prizes that will be offered. My guess is the final prize will be between 2.5 to 3 million miles or 100-120 winners.

As a reminder, go here to enter. Do it quickly and tell others....stop reading this and go here.

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Please Spend More Than $10 On Small Business Saturday

One of the best marketing plans I have seen is American Express's Small Business Saturday.

In 2010, in the midst of the economic recession, American Express decided to declare the Saturday after Thanksgiving, Small Business Saturday. They did more than make a declaration and some advertisement, they put money behind the program. American Express offered a one-time $25 statement credit for anyone who registered their Amex card and made a $25+ purchase at a participating small business. The program was a huge success that American Express brought it back in 2011. Why would American Express give away free money? Well, its all for good publicity.

Typically, small business are not fans of American Express. Of all the credit card providers, American Express has been reported to the highest swipe fees.  I say "reported," because American Express strongly pushes back from assertions that its swipe fees are higher than Visa and Mastercard. However, speaking with family members with small business, they confirm that American Express's fees are higher than other providers. I have seen this chart a few times:

Regardless of the what the fees actually are, American Express leaves a bad taste with small businesses owners. Small Business Saturday promotion has slowly started to make small business owners warm up to American Express.

2013 will be the third year of this Small Business Saturday promotion. This year, American Express is only offering a $10 statement credit compared to the $25 credit offered the past two years.

The decrease in the statement credit from $25 to $10 is major. When first announced, many people in the community were unhappy. Why? Its $15 less of merchandise that they get. You see people game the system by purchasing exactly $25 worth of merchandise, just enough for the credit. While not against the terms and conditions of the program, it is against the idea behind the program.

With the decrease to a $10 credit, I fear that small business owners might lose money on purchases. Say Joe Smith visits XYZ Small Business on Small Business Saturday. Joe Smith has his new Amex, that he got, because X blogger told him to apply, and heard that he can get $10 free merchandise by swiping his American Express card. The problem with the lower statement credit is a possible lower profit margin.

Assuming a $10 purchase, a 3% American Express swipe fee eats $0.30. Add in the processors swipe fee, which typically a quarter (.25) or two (.50). Take the higher end, the use of the credit card costs $.80 or 8% of the purchase price. Now lets look at a $25 purchase, 3% = $.75. Add in the $.50 processor fee and we are at $1.25 or 5% of the purchase price. If Joe Smith picks an item with a small profit margin, Mr. Small Business owner might be in trouble with the lower price point.

Yes, this is an extreme example. My analysis could be completely off. I don't have an MBA or even a BA in business. If my analysis is completely off, please let me know. No hard feelings. However, I have a feeling some small business owners might be doing the math like me. This may result in some small business owners might skip publicizing Small Business Saturday.

The reason why I wrote this article is to encourage people to think about spending a little more than $10 on Small Business Saturday. Spending an additional couple dollars on your purchase, maybe the difference of a profit, loss or break even for Mr. Small Business Owner.

Registration for Small Business Saturday opens on November 24. To register, bookmark this website.

Are you planning on participating in Small Business Saturday?
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Saturday, November 16, 2013

Giveaway: Fage Greek Yogurt Coupons

Yes, you read that correctly. This is a giveaway for coupons for Greek yogurt. No, I have not gone crazy. Yes, this is still a travel/miles/points blog. However, I am a member of Bzzagent. From time to time they send me free items and in exchange for spreading the word about the product.

Bzzagent gave me 5 free coupons for Fage Yogurt: 2 for me and 3 to giveaway. I though it would be fun to give them away to you, my readers.

Fage has a storied history which I have learn. Anthanassious Filippou opened a small dairy shop in Athens, Greece near a train stop. As travelers would come and go, the reputation of the creamy yogurt grew. Eventually, Athanassios brought his sons Loannis and Kyriakos into the business named Fage.

After bringing in his sons, the company opened its first yogurt production facility. Retailers sold their yogurt, but the consumer had no idea who the manufacturer was. Fage was the first company to bring branded yogurt with packaging similar to today's design.

Today, Fage yogurt is made in New York. In 2008, Fage opened a $200 million facility in Johnstown, New York and they are currenlty investing another $100 million to expand the facility.

This is a product that I use. I like to use it in my smoothies in the morning. What I like about Fage over other greek yogurts is the separated container of fruit. I like to use only a little fruit with the yogurt. Most other greek yogurts have the fruit on the bottom and I tend to lose some of the greek yogurt avoiding taking to much fruit. With Fage, I get all the plain greek yogurt and choose how much fruit I want. the giveaway.

There will be three winners with this giveaway. Each winner will win 1 free Fage Coupon with an
expiration date of December 31, 2013 (value $1.49).

3 ways to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

In full disclosure again, I got these coupons in exchange for talking about Fage Yogurt. I apologize if I offend anyone giving them away on a travel blog. My only motive is to share the wealth. Thank you as always for following the blog.
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