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Boost your airline mileage with a credit card

April 18th, 2014 No Comments

Airline Credit Card

With summer coming up and vacation on the brain, I thought this would be a great time to mention credit cards can be helpful in helping you boost your mileage.

I would NEVER give you this kind of advice. I’m terrible with anything and everything that has to do with credit cards.  On the other hand my friend Gary Leff, Conde Nast Traveler expert who blogged a MTM 6-part series called “How To Get More Luxury Out of Your Vacation Without Spending A Lot,” is the perfect person to consult on this front.

I ALWAYS check his blog and tweet him questions before I book anything!

The 10 Best Credit Card Signup Bonus Offers Right Now

**Click the title for links to the different cards.

  1. Citi Executive / AAdvantage World Elite MasterCard 100,000 miles after $10,000 spending within 3 months. It’s a $450 annual fee card which comes with American Airlines lounge access, and has a $200 statement credit as well in the first year.
  2. Ink Plus Business Card is a small business cards that both offer 50,000 point signup bonuses after $5,000 spend within 3 months. It has a $0 fee the first year, $95 thereafter.Points transfer to United, British Airways, Korean Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Southwest, Hyatt, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, IHG Rewards, and Amtrak.
  3. Ink Bold Business Card is nearly identical to the Ink Plus card above, except that it is a charge card (must pay bill in full each month) rather than a credit card (should pay bill in full each month). Like Ink Plus, it has an offer of 50,000 points after $5,000 spend within 3 months and has a $0 fee the first year, $95 thereafter.Both cards earn 5 points per dollar on telecommunications (cable tv, cell phone, internet) and at office supply stores; earns 2 points per dollars at gas stations and hotels; and has no foreign currency transaction fees.
  4. Chase Sapphire Preferred Card offers a $0 fee the first year ($95 thereafter); 40,000 points after $3000 in spend within 3 months, 5000 additional bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening.It has no foreign currency conversion fees, double points on travel and dining, points transfers to United, Hyatt, Southwest, Amtrak, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Korean Airlines, Marriott, IHG Rewards, and Ritz-Carlton. Probably the best all-around credit card, and with a great signup bonus.This is the card I recommend most to beginners in the hobby for getting started, but it’s one that beginners and experts alike can benefit from.
  5. Citi American Airlines MasterCard: 50,000 bonus points after $3000 spend within 3 months, no fee the first year.
  6. British Airways Visa Signature® Card: 50,000 points after $2000 in purchases within 3 months,If you spend $30,000 on the card in a calendar year you earn a companion certificate so you can redeem miles and a second passenger travels on the award for no additional miles (but does pay the taxes and fuel surcharges). Here’s my full discussion of this offer.British Airways offers family accounts so you can pool your miles. One person could get the card, spend $30,000 on it this year and earn 87,500 points (signup bonus plus 1.25 points per dollar for spending). A second person gets the card, and spends only enough for the 50,000 point bonus. Together they then have 140,000 points that can effectively be used twice for 280,000 points worth of travel as long as they fly together and exclusively on British Airways.
  7. Mercedes-Benz American Express Platinum card: 50,000 American Express Membership Rewards points after $3000 spend within 3 months, $475 annual fee (which also gets you a $200 airline fee credit, $100 credit if you are signing up for Global Entry, and lounge access with American, US Airways (both ending March 22) and Delta — plus a Priority Pass Select card for Alaska Airlines and many international lounges).
  8. United Explorer Card: There’s a 50,000 mile signup bonus with additional miles possible, it is targeted but many have been able to get the card. I love that the card comes with primary collision damage waiver benefits for rental cars. If the offer was generally available to everyone it would be higher up on my list. There’s also a small business version of the card — log into your MileagePlus account and click on the Explorer card for business. Some people click around to other cards and back and see the 50,000 point card offered to them.There’s also a business version of the card that offers 50,000 miles after $2000 spend within 3 months, $0 fee the first year.
  9. Southwest Airlines® Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card: 50,000 points after $2,000 within 3 months, that’s ~ $714 worth of airfare, and it’s even incrementally better than that because you only pay the segment (security) taxes and not the excise taxes you’d be out of pocket for on a paid ticket.
  10. US Airways Mastercard 40,000 points after first purchase, $89 fee (not waived the first year).

Reasonable people can disagree on the ordering — how you will value points depends on how many you already have and what awards you’re after.

(About half of the card links in the list above offer referral credit to Gary if you are approved after applying through the links in this post. I appreciate your support.)

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Last Minute Luxury Hotel Rooms + Discount Code

February 28th, 2014 No Comments

Banyan Tree Bangkok

I wrote about the Hotel Tonight app a while ago.  Have you used it yet?  I check in on it every now and find tons of luxury hotel rome available for a steal! I’m dying to try it for my next trip.

Here’s how HT works.  At 12pm on the day you’re looking to stay, you go on the HotelTonight app and find the a list of the best possible deals on hotels (because they’re last minutes).  It’s a bit risky, but the reward is big:  you can stay in a beautiful place for a fraction of the cost.  They index all of the major hotel chains in countless cities across the globe.

I think this is a great idea for someone traveling on business who has a budget to stick to for their room rate.  Or a Vegas trip where you don’t stay in your room that often.  I instantly thought of my time in Bangkok when we stayed at the Banyan Tree (above).  We wouldn’t have cared about the hotel as long as the room was nice.

Book before March 31 and use my discount code: Mary25 for $25 off your stay.

Safe travels!

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Some serious hustle on hotels (even the nice ones)

January 24th, 2014 No Comments

TripBam.com

 

Right now I think most of us use the usual suspects to search for hotel deals.  Well, there are a few new players in town who are making the play for your business in a big way.  Two of the websites below will stay on the hunt for the best deal even AFTER you’ve booked your room!  The last site helps you find the best deals on luxury hotels.

All three of these websites I’m about to share with you are new, which those in the tech world call “beta.”  In our terms, “not perfect.”  However, they make big promises that are worth a shot.

TRIPBAM.com

TRIPbam allows you to pick a hotel or neighborhood you want to stay in and then create a cluster of hotels around it that you’d also consider.  Book the room at the place you want and then it will continue to search for better deals in your cluster.  If something comes up, they will alert you and offer to rebook your room.

A warning, the user experience of this website is not pleasant due to the branding.  But, if it delivers on its promise, you won’t care!

TripRebel.com

I’m not sure what this has to do with their business other than the fact that the guys who built TripRebel know good branding.  There is only one function of this site.  Honestly I appreciate the simplicity.  You book your room THROUGH THEIR WEBSITE (very important). If the price of the room drops before you check in, they refund you the difference. Done!

Couple of things to watch out for.  When you input your city on the homepage, an error message pops up. Just click passed it.  When you get your rates, you’ll notice they’re in Euros.  In the top right hand corner, you can change the currency to dollars.

Like I said, these sites are new so give them a chance :)

TheSuitest.com

TheSuitest.com

 

TheSuitest is more my speed.  It helps you find deals on luxury hotels and filters them by the deal you’re getting.  They grade deals like homework: A, B, C, D, etc.  You can also search by price of course.

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Less searching and more saving on airfare

January 17th, 2014 No Comments

20140117-095127.jpg

I’m more of an airline loyalist because I like to earn the miles.  But I ALWAYS check to see if other airlines are considerably cheaper.

Recently I just discovered two new ways to do that.

WhichAirline.com

WhichAirline.com

This website and app allows you to see the airlines, duration, layovers, and price all in one graph. The feature that makes this site truly unique is that they will show you how you can use layovers and multiple airlines to reduce the cost of your total fare.   As someone who has traveled around Europe and can never remember all of their “domestic” options, I love that they index those airlines  as well.

Google.com/Flights/Explore

Google.com/flights/explore

I’m not sure how long Google has offered this search.  You enter your cities and trip length and then it shows you a graph of each day for a duration of time.  If you’re dates are flexible, you can opt to travel on one of the lower cost days.  When you scroll over the graph, it will show you which airlines have the lowest fare on that day.  Pretty nifty!  I’ve been dying to get to NYC to see friends and go to Otto’s new taco shop.

With this search I can see when is the most affordable time for me to do that.

(Photo credit: my always traveling GF Caroline)

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GILT for the outdoor adventurer: TheCLYMB

September 10th, 2013 No Comments

TheClymb.com

You know the GILT sale drill.  At TheClymb.com, it’s applied to sportswear and gear, mostly for the outdoors.

Shop TheClymb.com

They also seem to have a collection of gear on sale without an end time.  Click CLYMB365 to browse the selection of shoes and apparel.

CLYMB365

For those of you who are truly adventurous, they offer discounts on outdoor experiences as well.  Zimbabwe for $600, I would look into that!

Discount outdoor travel at TheClymb

Finally, I think the most valuable part of TheCLYMB is their info.  The blog offers so many stories, videos and tips for “adventure travel.” There are also several guides to help you prep for your trip.  It’ all written with a guy’s sensibility, which makes it more fun to read :)

TheClymb Luggage tips

CLYMB Blog

Thanks for the intro Mike!

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Expedia for Luxury Hotels ONLY: Kiwi Collection

August 30th, 2013 No Comments

Kiwi Collection homepage

 

Searching for a steal on a nice hotel can be a challenge.  Most of the time I’m not up for it.  Kiwi Collection does half of the work for you by only offering deals from 4 and 5 star hotels. They scour the world so no matter where you’re going, they’ll have a solid suggestions for you: boutiques, luxury chains, etc.  All of which are guaranteed to be top notch.

You can see for yourself as the site goes into great detail on the rooms (square footage, amenities, etc).  Their blog is also a great resource for hotel reviews, local hotspots, and city guides.

 

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Facebook as your travel agent for social scheduling

August 16th, 2013 No Comments

One of my favorite trips of all time was my week in Milan, a city I knew NOTHING about when I arrived. My experience there wouldn’t have been the same without Arnold, a British friend of my BFF Toby that I had connected with a few weeks prior to my arrival.  Arnold, who had lived in Milan for several months by that time was totally dialed into the local scene.  He showed me around town, took me to the hot spots for “aperitivo,” and invited me to watch Milan win the World Cup with his friends. We flooded the streets with the rest of the town that night and partied all night long.

That was a long time ago so Toby connected us via email.  Now you can do the same thing – find a friend of a friend in a city you’re visiting – with one click on facebook.

Since January of this year, Facebook has been rolling out features that allow you to search and engage in a very specific way.  With these improvements, you can book your social schedule when you travel or even if you just hang out in your ‘hood.

GRAPH SEARCH

In the search bar at the top of Facebook, type in something very specific to find friends with similar interests.  For example: “friends who I work with that like to hike” or “friends who live in Chicago that like live music” or “friends who went to [your college here].”  It’s like making an instant invite list without having to brainstorm!

For travel, extend your search by typing “friends of my friends who live in London.” A list of people in London along with their photo and basic info will appear for you to browse.  Hover over the mutual friends link to see which friends you have in common.  Now you’re free to send them a message (or contact the friends you have in common) about meeting up when you’re in town.  To learn more, visit Graph Search’s Facebook page.

MOBILE RESTAURANT RESERVATIONS

This feature JUST launched!  Facebook has teamed up with Open Table so you can make reservations at participating restaurants on their facebook page when you’re searching on your mobile phone.  You’ll see the link under the contact info.  So after you find your friends in London, you can search restaurants, and book a table without ever leaving Facebook.

These facebook guys are pretty clever.  Can’t wait to see what’s next!

(Image via)

 

 

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Last minute steals on hot hotels – Hotel Tonight

July 15th, 2013 No Comments
Hotel Tonight iPhone App

It’s summer time, be spontaneous, treat yourself to a little vacay!  You don’t have to escape the states or have a big budget to do it.  Since you’re also short on time, skip the hotel hunt and download the Hotel Tonight app to find just what you’re looking for RIGHT NOW.

Hotel Tonight lists available hotel rooms starting “tonight” at a huge discount in what seems like every major US city.  Hotels want to book their rooms just as badly as you want to stay there, so if you make a reservation at the last minute, you could score a great deal with this app.

The interface is slick and easy to use.  For each hotel, you’ll find pictures of the rooms, restaurants, and ammenities so you get all the info you would online. Each hotel is also categorized (basic, hip, solid, luxe, charming, etc) so you can filter your search.

The only downfall I’ve found after a quick browse through the app is the offerings are all over the map in terms of your current location. In other words, if you’re unfamiliar with the city you’re in, you could be excited to book a gorgeous room and then see it’s located 25 miles from you.

Also, the deals don’t register until noon in the local timezone so no need to be the early bird to get the worm.

 
(Click the pic to make it bigger!)

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