July 26, 2015

5 Steps to a (Nearly) Free Trip: Craft a Strategy

Each time I return from a trip, I get a dozen questions from friends, colleagues, neighbors, etc... about how I was able to put the trip together with points and miles.  While I always write about the planning process for each individual trip, (recent trips to Europe & Asia) I've yet to write a more comprehensive series about how to easily "pay" for a trip with points and miles.  So here it goes.

Step One:    Have a Goal
Step Two:    Craft a Strategy
Step Three:  Point Accumulation
Step Four:    Search for Award Availability
Step Five:    Book Flights & Hotels

First, let's recap the goal we covered in step one.

"You want to fly to Europe next summer in business class.  You're flexible on the timing and the destination.  You want to stay in decent hotels for a week.  You currently have a great credit score, payoff your balance each month, and spend about $3,000 per month as a couple.  And you want to minimize your cash outlay for the trip."

The easiest/fastest way to accumulate points and miles for a dream trip is through credit card sign-up bonuses.  You can also pad your balances without getting on a plane by shopping online and dining out.  I also recommend you sign-up for an AwardWallet account to keep track of your hard earned points and miles.  But signing up for a handful of credit cards will be the fastest way to get your trip booked.  


Park Hyatt Vendome

Brothers in Asia: Le Meridien Bangkok

Introduction
Planning & Booking
Qantas First Class Lounge LAX
Cathay Pacific 777-300 ER First Class Los Angeles to Hong Kong
The Pier Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge
Le Meridien Bangkok
Thai Airways First Class Lounge & Spa
Thai Airways 747-400 First Class Bangkok to Hong Kong
Conrad Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge Hong Kong
Air India 787-8 Business Class Hong Kong to Seoul
Asiana First Class Lounge Seoul
Asiana A380 First Class Seoul to Los Angeles

After a few amazing hours in Cathay Pacific's new First Class Lounge (The Pier) we made our way down to the gate for our quick hop to Bangkok.  A bus gate meant an awesome ride across the tarmac to our waiting A330 - so many planes to check out!  We boarded and waited for a large tour group to arrive.  And waited.  And then it started to pour.  We ended up sitting on the tarmac for about an hour before we finally got going.  Not a huge deal - it just made a long travel day even longer.

Le Meridien Bangkok lobby

We arrived in Bangkok around 10:30 PM local time.  We cleared immigration in about 5 minutes thanks to fast track passes and our bags were waiting on the carousel when we arrived.  I hit the ATM and were quickly in a cab heading towards Bangkok.  Our nearly 40 minute (thanks to Bangkok traffic) ride cost less than $13 USD.  Pretty amazing.

July 25, 2015

Brothers in Asia: The Pier Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge

Introduction
Planning & Booking
Qantas First Class Lounge LAX
Cathay Pacific 777-300 ER First Class Los Angeles to Hong Kong
The Pier Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge
Le Meridien Bangkok
Thai Airways First Class Lounge & Spa
Thai Airways 747-400 First Class Bangkok to Hong Kong
Conrad Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge Hong Kong
Air India 787-8 Business Class Hong Kong to Seoul
Asiana First Class Lounge Seoul
Asiana A380 First Class Seoul to Los Angeles

After clearing transit security, we made our way to The Wing for a quick shower.  While The Wing is totally awesome, I was excited to check out The Pier which had just opened a few days earlier.  The shower felt great and I caught up on email while rehydrating and downing yet another cappuccino.  We still had a few hours to go until our flight to Bangkok so we made our way down to The Pier.


The Hallway at The Pier

Our boarding passes were scanned and we were shown into the lounge. WOW.  My new favorite lounge at HKG.

July 21, 2015

Taking the Show on the Road

We're moving to New York!  Well not me - I love Denver.  My company (PaySimple) is opening an office in Manhattan in August.  I don't usually post about job stuff on ATRP but this is somewhat travel related - who doesn't love traveling to New York?

We're looking to hire 3-4 inside sales representatives to help us launch our NYC office.  We currently have 80 employees in Denver, a great product, over 12,000 customers and a phenomenal culture.

I've worked at PaySimple for over 7 years and have been afforded a ton of opportunity to grow myself as a person and a professional, work with a great team, and help grow the business into one of the biggest technology companies in Denver.  Check out some more thoughts from current/former employees on Glassdoor.

PaySimple provides some of the best t-shirts I own.  If you've been reading the blog for awhile, you've seen me rocking PaySimple tees all over the world.  Come work with us as we take over New York!!

If you or someone you know is interested in this type of opportunity, feel free to email me directly.


PaySimple on the way to Seoul

PaySimple in Singapore

PaySimple in Taipei

PaySimple on the way to Vancouver

July 11, 2015

Brothers in Asia: Cathay Pacific 777-300ER First Class LAX to Hong Kong

Introduction
Planning & Booking
Qantas First Class Lounge LAX
Cathay Pacific 777-300 ER First Class Los Angeles to Hong Kong
The Pier Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge
Le Meridien Bangkok
Thai Airways First Class Lounge & Spa
Thai Airways 747-400 First Class Bangkok to Hong Kong
Conrad Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge Hong Kong
Air India 787-8 Business Class Hong Kong to Seoul
Asiana First Class Lounge Seoul
Asiana A380 First Class Seoul to Los Angeles

We headed down to the gate around 30 minutes prior to boarding.  Morning at TBIT on Monday is quiet - there were only a handful of flights departing so the terminal was mostly empty.  We snapped a few pictures of the 777 that would be taking us to Asia and soon enough, boarding was called.

Cathay Pacific 777-300ER

This would be my third first class ride on Cathay's 777-300ER in 2015 (Hong Kong to LAX and New York to Vancouver) and I was looking forward to some Krug, a great meal, and one of the best beds in the sky.

July 4, 2015

Brothers in Asia: Qantas First Class Lounge LAX

Introduction
Planning & Booking
Qantas First Class Lounge LAX
Cathay Pacific 777-300 ER First Class Los Angeles to Hong Kong
The Pier Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge
Le Meridien Bangkok
Thai Airways First Class Lounge & Spa
Thai Airways 747-400 First Class Bangkok to Hong Kong
Conrad Hong Kong
Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge Hong Kong
Air India 787-8 Business Class Hong Kong to Seoul
Asiana First Class Lounge Seoul
Asiana A380 First Class Seoul to Los Angeles

After a quick (and totally acceptable) overnight at the Sheraton Gateway LAX, we woke up around 6AM for our 9:40 AM departure.  We showered, packed, and headed downstairs to find the hotel shuttle bus waiting for us.  We arrived at the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) around 6:45 which was perfect timing since Cathay's check in desk opens 3 hours prior to departure.  Check in was efficient and the agent was extremely friendly.  She was able to move our seats so that we had a window and an aisle (vs. two aisles).

The airport was absolutely dead and even without pre-check we were both airside within 5 minutes.  This was my first time departing from TBIT and I was blown away.  The airport is gorgeous.  Great to see in the US.


TBIT Departure Hall

More TBIT Departures

5 Steps to a (Nearly) Free Trip: Have a Goal

Each time I return from a trip, I get a dozen questions from friends, colleagues, neighbors, etc... about how I was able to put the trip together with points and miles.  While I always write about the planning process for each individual trip, (recent trips to Europe & Asia) I've yet to write a more comprehensive series about how to easily "pay" for a trip with points and miles.  So here it goes.

Step One:    Have a Goal
Step Two:    Craft a Strategy
Step Three:  Point Accumulation
Step Four:    Search for Award Availability
Step Five:    Book Flights & Hotels

If you don't know where you're going, it's much harder to get there.  So think about your travel goals and personal situation.  Do you want to go to Europe in first class or do you want to visit family in Florida in economy?  Do you have a family and require a suite?  Are you a luxury traveler or are you good with more economical accommodations?

Burj Al Arab Dubai - is this your traveling style?

Knowing a bit about your travel habits will be incredibly helpful here.

For example, I know that we prefer to sit upfront whenever possible (makes the trip more fun and given this hobby is accessible) and stay in luxury+ hotels.  We are fine going on a shorter trip knowing that if we like a destination, we go go back.

It's also helpful to have a timeframe in mind and be flexible with dates.  That's not always possible due to demanding work schedules, school, family commitments, etc...But it's always easier to book an award when your attitude is more "I'd like to go to Mexico in the Spring" vs. "I need to stay at this resort on these dates."

For purposes of this series, let's assume that it's just you and your spouse.  The good news is you know your goal.  You want to fly to Europe next summer in business class.  You're flexible on the timing and the destination.  You want to stay in decent hotels for a week.  You currently have a great credit score, payoff your balance each month, and spend about $3,000 per month as a couple.  And you want to minimize your cash outlay for the trip.  The bad news is that you currently have 0 points and miles.

Not to worry - over the next four posts, I'll walk you through the process of making that trip to Europe (or whatever your goal is) a reality.  It really is pretty simple.  For me (and my family) it's been an extremely rewarding hobby/use of time.