March 2, 2015

50% off Award Stays in Vegas

IHG announced a pretty sweet promotion that cuts the price of a Las Vegas weekend in half.  For one day only (3/10) IHG is discussing award stays at the Ventian and Palazzo in Las Vegas by 50%.

There are some blackout dates but the promotion is good through the end of 2015 - so you have plenty of weekends to choose from.

50,000 IHG points (which can be straight up purchased for $.70 each) for 2 nights is a really outstanding deal.  There are a ton of ways to use points in Vegas for hotel rooms nowadays, but the combination of the great hotels (Venetian/Palazzo) and 50% discount make this a no-brainer for your next trip to Las Vegas.

I will DEFINITELY be taking advantage of this promotion - now to find a weekend!

February 23, 2015

Great Deal - Vancouver Hotel Promotion

As they've done in the past, beVancouver is offering some great deals on hotels for stays prior to 4/30.  They are offering American Express gift cards in denominations ranging from $25 to $125 (nicer hotels come with the higher denomination) per stay based on the level of hotel.  They are also offering an extra $50 gift card for additional nights.  You can have up to there bookings per person so in theory could stay at three high end hotels each for one night and get $375 in gift cards.

Big rebates on Vancouver hotels

We are headed to Vancouver in April for a few nights so I checked out the promotion to see if it would work for us.  We are staying at one of the Fairmont properties for the first couple of nights and then the Shangri-La for the final night.  It's the only Shangri-La property in North America and I've always wanted to stay in one of their hotels in Asia so figure this would be a good chance.

We booked our night through American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts with our Platinum Card at a rate of $221 USD (Superior Room) which includes wifi, breakfast for two, and a $100 USD credit to be used at the property.  The rate also provides the opportunity for early check-in, late check-out and an upgrade.

Shangri-La Vancouver Superior Room Quote

Through the beVancouver promotion, the rate for the Superior Room is also $221 USD (275 CAD) but comes with a $100 USD (125 CAD) American Express gift card.

With the beVancouver promotion, you're spending $121 for a pretty phenomenal hotel room.  But everything else is going to be "extra."  With the FHR rate, you're spending $221 for the same hotel room but also getting free breakfast, wifi, and $100 to spend at the spa, bar, on room service, etc...

I value the breakfast at about $30 and obviously we'll use the $100 credit at the bar.  So take that into consideration and the FHR rate is <$100.  We're keeping our FHR reservation but this is still a great deal.  Anyone going to Vancouver for business or vacation should definitely look into it!

February 22, 2015

Award Ticket Change Fees

Since I'm no longer a United 1K and just a lowly Premier Silver member (and have zero status with other carriers) award ticket change fees are a key part of my travel budget.  On United, they range from $25 to $200.  As a top tier elite you're generally entitled to make unlimited changes (routing, dates, carriers, cancellation, etc...) to award tickets.  That means you can book trips speculatively, add a segment later all for free.

I'm totally comfortable not chasing status for those benefits at this point.  I have more than enough miles in my accounts thanks to a few years of credit card churning.  

For the most part, I can put together a weeklong trip to Asia for less than $1,000 USD out of pocket.  That includes all the flights and hotels.  If you were paying cash, flying coach, and staying in average hotels, you'd probably be looking at a minimum cash outlay of $4,000 USD since flights go for about $1,500 each and a hotel (with taxes) costs $150 - $200 depending on where you are in the world.

Change fees are part of the game.  If I end up spending $300 to make a handful of changes to either improve our connections, class of service, carrier or routing, I consider that part of our travel budget.

For our most recent trip, we made several changes that ended up costing $350.  Those changes also saved us a night in a hotel so in that sense, we came out ahead.  Even with the change fees and increased taxes on one of the segments, the total cost for all the flights and hotels was around $750.

Yes it costs some money to earn miles and points (annual fees mostly) but if you're smart about earning and burning, leveraging change fees can be another tool to improve your traveling.

Last Minute Switch - AA to Cathay

Originally, we were scheduled to fly home from Taipei via Hong Kong - spending the night at the W Hong Kong before taking American's direct service from HKG to DFW.  After a late night celebrating 2015 at the W Taipei, we had a great lazy day walking around the city. We headed back to the hotel in the early afternoon and I before I checked in to our flight to Hong Kong I decided to check if there were any "better" options to get us all the way home.

Strolling around Taipei

Amazingly, I found two first class seats on one of Cathay Pacific's flights from Hong Kong to LAX.  After some discussion, we both decided that we had already had such a great trip, one more night in Hong Kong wouldn't make it that much better and heading home a day earlier would be nice.  So I set about making the change.

February 16, 2015

50% Off at Neiman Marcus with Visa Checkout

Neiman Marcus is offering $50 off a purchase of $100 (regular priced merchandise only) when you pay with Visa Checkout.  If you don't already have Visa Checkout, it takes all of 3 minutes to signup. The deal expires tomorrow, 2/17.  To get the deal, select "pay with Visa Checkout" and you'll automatically receive $50 off your order.

Yes, Neiman Marcus is insanely overpriced and most of the stuff they sell is more than $100.  That said, they do have a lot of great travel stuff including Tumi accessories.  You could pick up a travel kit for $95 and add some socks to clear the $100 threshold.

I was able to get a Tumi Alpha Bravo travel kit (last one so no longer available) which retailed for $115 but I scored it for $65.  I also used my ShopRunner account to get free 2-day shipping and went through the Shop with Chase Ultimate Rewards Mall and earned 5x points on the purchase.

This is a pretty good deal if you were already in the market for something that NM sells.

February 15, 2015

Ringing in 2015: Cathay Pacific 777-300ER First Class Hong Kong to LA

Planning & Booking
Singapore Airlines 777-300ER First Class San Francisco to Hong Kong
Grand Hyatt Hong Kong
The Bridge Cathay Pacific Business Class Lounge
Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class Hong Kong to Taipei
W Taipei
Cathay Pacific 777 Business Class Taipei to Hong Kong
The Wing Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge
Cathay Pacific 777-300ER First Class Hong Kong to Los Angeles

We were originally slated to fly home the next day on American's direct service from Hong Kong to Dallas.  I had been looking for other options prior to the trip but couldn't find anything.  The night before we were supposed to head home, I found availability on Cathay Pacific first class.  Because there were some challenges in switching our flight, I'm going to write a separate post about what we did and how we did it.  But now onto the trip report...

After spending a wonderful afternoon in The Wing, we made our way down to the gate.  Boarding had already begun and we were on the plane within minutes.  Cathay Pacific only has 6 first seats on their 777-300ER (vs. 8 on Singapore for example) so the cabin feels incredibly wide and spacious.  We were shown to our seats (1D and 1K) with Emily taking the window seats and me in the aisle.

Cathay Pacific First Class

Oh hey 1K

Our plane had Cathay's "refreshed" first seat which was cool.  While there isn't a door that closes, this is probably my second favorite first class seat (next to Singapore Suites).  The seat is unbelievable comfortable for both lounging and sleeping.  There is a fold out tv which can be angled to ensure you get the perfect viewing angle.  There's a touch screen seat control, remote, two reading lights, and power ports.  On the left hand side of my seat was a cubby to store small items.  

First of many glasses of Krug

United Double Bills...and Actually Apologizes

I booked our tickets to Hawaii at last week.  I logged on to my American Express account to pay my bill on my Business Gold Card (earning 3x Membership Rewards points for airfare purchases) only to discover that I had been double billed for the the tickets.

I contacted American Express to let them know and they opened up an inquiry and promised to investigate.  I also contacted United via email to let them know.

After a few days, they responded.

I was really impressed with the email and the apology.  While I did ask for 10,000 miles in my email, I wasn't expecting anything.  Impressive service if you ask me to both take care of the issue and provide some "goodwill" compensation.

The 10,000 miles have already posted to our accounts and the duplicate billing issue resolved.  Thanks United!