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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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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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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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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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You CAN get a solid workout in on a family vacation. I’ve got the numbers to prove it!

July 2nd, 2012 2 Comments

Screen Shot 2012-07-02 at 6.06.35 AM

Last week I was on vacation with family and let me tell you, it’s the most exhausting thing I think I’ve ever done.  I need a vacation after being on vacation!  With the kids up at the crack of dawn, everyone wanting to go in different directions, plus the environmental elements -  98 degree blistering heat and ocean salt water – I was hardly able to move by 3pm.

BUT! I felt better the days I was able to exercise in the morning or late afternoon. Considering the exhaustion, I’m not sure why, my legs were dying after countless hours at the beach….but I really did appreciate getting my heart rate up and clearing my head.

Because we had kids with us, I knew I would be active anyway, but additionally I had a plan and a goal.  The week before we left, I worked out hard Monday through Friday without taking a day off (which is usually Thursday).  Because my body was worn out by the weekend, I was happy to give myself a much needed 2 day break when we began the trip.  I brought my heart rate monitor and decided I would do whatever workout felt right and would strive to burn at least 400 calories in 1 hour.  Here’s how my workouts went:

  • Monday:  Pure Barre class and 1 mile run (approx 580 calories)
  • Tuesday: 1 mile run, lifting chest and back, 1 mile run (approx 500 calories)
  • Wednesday: Nothing
  • Thursday: 30 minutes on the treadmill, yoga (approx 600 calories)
  • Friday: Nothing
  • Saturday: 1 mile run, shoulders and abs, 1 mile run (approx 650 calories)

For all 4 workouts I actually exceeded my calorie burn.  Even though the Pure Barre class was easy and totally boring, it still helped me reach my goal.  The outdoor runs in the heat were really challenging and it helped me mentally to know they weren’t very long.  The treadmill workout was a killer because I decided to do running uphill intervals.

Precor Treadmill stats

So in 30 minutes I stayed in zones 4 and 5 (aerobic) with my heart rate and burned 422 calories, which is pretty amazing for me.  On Saturday, when I took the headline photo at the top, you can see I burned 687 calories in about an hour and a half.

NOW I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE THINKING:  Of course I found time to workout because I always do.  Normal people don’t do that on vacation.  I have to tell you, that’s just not true.  In the mornings, mommies and daddies were pounding the pavement on rigorous runs and packing themselves into the gym to get in their workout before the day began.

Runners on vacation

Trust me, I know it’s hard to get going, I had to force myself to exercise, and I never regretted it!  If you you need some inspiration, browse my archives for exercises and tips and click here for my vacation workouts.  You have options, you just have to want to take them.

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An quick spritz will save your vacation tan

June 26th, 2012 1 Comment

L'Oreal Sublime Bronze

I this spray to maintain my summer glow.  Over the years, they’ve been improving it so there is no way it streaks or turns you orange.  After you dry off out of the shower, spray yourself down, wait only a minute, and then moisturize.

The key is that you really need a base tan before you can use it.

One can runs about $10-12 at CVS or Walgreens.

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