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JetBlue Launches “Mint” Class for the Upgraded Economy Traveler

November 20th, 2015 No Comments

JetBlue just officially launched “MintClass” on long haul flights: most notably LA – NYC, SF – NYC, SF- Boston, and NYC – Barbados.

My go-to Conde Nast Traveler expert @GaryLeff says:

Jet Blue Mint Class Gary Leff quote

Affordable amenities are the story and success of the Jet Blue brand altogether, and now they’ve done it again.  For those of us who fly Economy Comfort because we can’t afford First Class coast to coast, we are very excited to get more bang for our buck!

Starting at $599 (just a little bit more than upgraded economy), you can fly 4 hours like you be buckled in for 20. Stretch out flat, watch DirectTV on a big flat screen, eat 3 meals catered by one of my favorite NYC staples Saxon + Parole, all the while covered in a big blankie. The Conde Nast Traveler writer LOVED her flight to Barbados, saying what could be a haul was a vacation in itself.

 

If you’ve been with me for a while, you know my bar for “luxury” and “first class” is pretty high. I won’t have my readers paying for an experience that is sub par or “economy plus” when the label claims luxurious. (Case in point this review of the Intercontinental Presidential in Cozumel).

This is where marketing comes in. Jet Blue isn’t calling their new experience”first class,” the branded term they use is “Mint Class.” Absolutely brilliant. The first class traveler would likely be disappointed by JetBlue Mint Class, but the Economy Plus traveler who pays for the upgraded seat and still sits in coach will be ELATED.

The key to getting the the affordable/same-as-economy-plus fare is the time you book your flight. Plan ahead and you’ll pay the base rate.

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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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How to get more luxury out of your vacation without spending a lot: Part 6 of 6 from Gary Leff

October 25th, 2013 No Comments

Gary’s Tip #6: The Citi Bank Hilton Reserve Card 

“Hotel chains treat their frequent guests much better than someone they don’t know well.  The top stayers get suites, late checkout, free breakfast, free internet, and even services like dedicated reservations representatives (I have one with Hyatt, Starwood offers them to members who stay 100 nights per year), and lots of bonus points.  But you don’t have to be an uber-regular to get some of the better treatment.  The big hotel chains have relationships with big banks, and they extend some of the benefits they offer their own elite members to guests who sign up for the credit cards that their best friend banks offer.

The very best deal comes from Hilton and Citibank. The Citi Hilton Reserve Card has a $95 annual fee but gives you Gold status in the HHonors program just for carrying the card.  That means free club lounge access (evening snacks, daily breakfast, at many hotels free cocktails), free internet, and upgrades — probably not to suites, but often to a bigger room or a better room..  As a signup bonus, they’ll give you two free weekend nights at nearly any Hilton family property in the world after you put $2500 of spending on the card.  That’s certainly worth more than the annual fee.”

———

Many thanks to Gary for sharing 6 great tricks on getting the biggest bang for your buck so we can travel in style!  To read the entire series, click here.  If you travel often, follow his blog for regular tips and current deals.  The man is an expert at discovering loopholes, online mistakes the airlines and hotels have to honor, and how to manipulate the fine print. You can feel free to tweet him questions @GaryLeff.  He’s super sweet so don’t be shy.

(Photo is room at Hilton Waldorf-Astoria Orlando resort via.)

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How to get more luxury out of your vacation without spending a lot: Part 5 of 6 from Gary Leff

May 24th, 2013 2 Comments

W Koh Samui

Gary’s Tip #4: Sign up for the program.

By now, you’ve read several of my posts of MTM. so you must realize there are a few methods to my madness: loyalty programs being one of them.

 

Even if you sign up for a loyalty program RIGHT BEFORE you make a reservation at a hotel or fly an airline, do it.  You have nothing to lose only points to gain.  You might even realize you like the brand and want to frequent them more often.  The tip applies from big chains to little boutique brands.  Always make sure you’re a member of their loyalty program and give your frequent guest number with the reservation. Save those points! You can track them easily at free sites like AwardWallet.com.

Also, don’t worry about redeeming points as soon as you have enough for a free something. Having points can often get you the best values at some of the most expensive hotels. For the same points that the Grand Hyatt New York would have cost me, I spent New Years at the Park Hyatt Vendome in Paris and then in February at the Park Hyatt in the Maldives (think $900 per night for each). I never would be able to stay at such expensive hotels if I were paying cash, but by collecting my points I can and do all the time.

For other posts in this series and more tips from Gary, click here.  If you travel often,follow his blog for regular tips and current deals.  The man is an expert at discovering loopholes, online mistakes the airlines and hotels have to honor, and how to manipulate the fine print. You can feel free to tweet him questions @GaryLeff.  He’s super sweet so don’t be shy.

(Photo: View from W Resort Koh Samui, where you can use Starwood points.  Mary’s review here.)

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How to get more luxury from your vacation without spending a lot – Part 4 of 6 from Gary Leff

May 3rd, 2013 4 Comments

 Hundred dollar bil

Gary’s Tip #4: Tipping Works

If you haven’t done it yourself, you’ve heard about people “greasing the guy” to get something better, faster, harder, longer, you get the idea.  I know this seems like an amateur move, but when it comes to hotels, it works.

I once checked into the “full-committed” Bellagio, and knowing what I know, was sure there were better rooms for my wife and I to rest our heads in while in Vegas.  So when I handed over my credit card to the front desk clerk at check in, I did so with a $100 bill tucked underneath.  I was staying four nights, and simply said, “I was wondering if you had any upgrades available?  I’d love one of the big penthouse suites.”  She saw the $100 and started typing.  We ended up in the lap of luxury with two bedrooms and  FIVE bathrooms!  The average nightly cost to me? $25 for the upgrade on my $139 rate booked through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts which already included free breakfast.

If she couldn’t have done anything I’d have taken back the $100.  If all she could have offered was a fountain view, I’d have swapped it for a $20.  You can’t do this everywhere, but tipping big in Vegas made me feel like Frank Sinatra.  Word is that it works in New York as well, but don’t try it in Tokyo — tipping is offensive in Japan!

(MR note: I have to say, I’m not sure how you would ask for your money back…but if you said so Gary, I would walk off a cliff so I’ll stand with you on this one.)

For other posts in this series and more tips from Gary, click here.  If you travel often, follow his blog for regular tips and current deals.  The man is an expert at discovering loopholes, online mistakes the airlines and hotels have to honor, and how to manipulate the fine print. You can feel free to tweet him questions @GaryLeff.  He’s super sweet so don’t be shy.

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Meet my travel gurus

April 26th, 2013 No Comments

Gary Leff and Mary Rambin

 

Finally we get to meet the man behind all of the travel wizardry!  This is Gary Leff who has been writing a guest series here on how to get more luxury out of your vacation budget without spending a ton.  I’ve been posting about him for years now, along with every other reputable publication that features travel.  This man works magic when it comes to wheeling and dealing to get the most out of airline miles, hotel deals, loyalty programs, you name it.  Before you fly or plan a trip, always check his blog.

I also learned Gary is one of the sweetest men on the planet.  His wife is a very lucky lady!

Paul Brady Conde Nast Traveler

Paul Brady used to be my travel editor at The Huffington Post and has recently moved up the ranks to Deputy Editor at Conde Nast Traveler.  Yay for Paul!  We met for the first time yesterday in Bryant Park since the weather decided to play nice.  Check out his travel features that focus on travel tips and news as well.  A couple of my favorites:  10 best travel destinations now, and biggest buzz-worth destinations with the best value.

 

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How To Get More Luxury from Your Vacation Without Spending a Lot – Part 3 of 6 in a series by Gary Leff

April 12th, 2013 No Comments

Capella Pedregal Cabo San Lucas Mexico

Gary’s Tip #3:   Think off-season. 

For parents, it’s hard to travel any time other than school vacations. Peak season is called that for a reason; everyone is venturing out for the good weather.  At this time, even inexpensive places get pricey and get too busy to provide great service. I hate having to get up early to head down to the beach to reserve a beach chair!

So for those of you who aren’t so encumbered take advantage of the time when families aren’t crowding airports and accommodations.    Hotels are more peaceful, less full, and they tend to offer great discounts.  You’ll find more than just deals on room rates.  Spa and dining establishments give incentives to keep not just you, but more so their employees happy.

Combining off-season or shoulder season timing with my previous tips , I’ve done really well.  For instance, the Le Meridien in Khao Lak, Thailand (an hour’s drive from Phuket) often offers standalone oceanfront villas with their own pool for as little as $250 per night from May through August.  And in Las Vegas the season is the weekend, rates are much less on weekdays.  A work colleague was recently planning to stay at Treasure Island for $139 per night.  Since it was during the week I found her a great rate of $199 at the Four Seasons instead. As I instructed you to do, I told her to book through her travel agent that was a Four Seasons Preferred Partner so she received daily breakfast (choice of buffet or room service!), a room upgrade, and a $100 spa credit.

For other posts in this series and more tips from Gary, click here.  If you travel often, follow his blog for regular tips and current deals.  The man is an expert at discovering loopholes, online mistakes the airlines and hotels have to honor, and how to manipulate the fine print. You can feel free to tweet him questions @GaryLeff.  He’s super sweet so don’t be shy.

(Photo: Mary’s Suite at Capella Pedregal, Cabo San Lucas Mexico. Her review here.)

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How To Get More Luxury from Your Vacation Without Spending a Lot – Part 2 of 6 in a series by Gary Leff

April 5th, 2013 No Comments

W Resort Koh Samui bedroom

Gary’s Tip #2 How you book your hotel matters. 

Searching for rates on the discount sites (Expedia, Orbitz, etc) is a good way to start your hotel search, but booking through them is not always best.  Once you find the hotel you want, go to the hotel’s site to see if they offer a comparable price.  If  they do, book direct. Hotels can pay 20% or more commissions to those travel agencies, and since you’re a less profitable guest to them, they may put you in less desirable rooms.

Wait, don’t click so fast though.  Before you just book on Hilton.com, Marriott.com, or Hyatt.com … see whether booking through one of their preferred partners gets you a better deal.

You’ll often find the same rates for luxury hotels, but with added amenities if your hotel participates in the Visa Signature Hotels Program (any Visa Signature credit card holder qualifies), American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts
(American Express Platinum and Centurion cardholders), Virtuoso (some travel agents belong to their network and can get you their rates), or chain-specific programs like Four Seasons Preferred Partners (again, offered by select travel agents).  Booking through these channels often gets you free upgrades, free breakfast, late checkout, and possibly an additional amenity like a free spa treatment or $100 credit to use in the hotel’s restaurants — without paying more.

For other posts in this series and more tips from Gary, click here.  If you travel often, follow his blog for regular tips and current deals.  The man is an expert at discovering loopholes, online mistakes the airlines and hotels have to honor, and how to manipulate the fine print. You can feel free to tweet him questions @GaryLeff.  He’s super sweet so don’t be shy.

(Photo: Mary Rambin, W Resort Koh Samui, see my review of the resort and video tour here.)

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