Showing posts with label Travel Tips & Tricks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Travel Tips & Tricks. Show all posts

April 30, 2017

Saving on United Flights with Club

United has some seriously confusing branding.  This post is about the " Club" vs. the "United Club" which is the name for United's lounge system.  First, let's get a few things straight:
  • The United Club used to be called the Red Carpet Club which was a pretty awesome name.
  • The Club used to be called the Travel Club @ which was a really dumb name.
United bought Continental so they obviously had to rebrand.  I'm not sure any club should have the name ".com" in it but that's a different conversation.  

I've been a member of this "club" for five year nows.  It costs $25 a year and provides a $5 rebate for each United ticket booked through United.  That is seriously the only benefit.  I almost always book directly through United (vs. an OTA - Online Travel Agency) so this is a great deal for me.  The only reason (now) to book away from United directly is the 5x MR points on airfare through Amex travel on the Platinum card.

If I'm booking a roundtrip and I can break it into two one-ways for the same price, I will do that as I'll earn $10 back vs. $5.  I've also found that I still get the $5 even if I'm booking for other people.     I was looking at my activity this morning - in 5 years, I've received $500 in credits for $125 in fees.  Pretty solid return!

It is very easy to redeem from the "Travel Bank"

The credits end up in a "travel bank" which makes it very easy to use.  When on the checkout screen, just click the radio button to redeem and your credit is automatically applied to the price of the ticket.  I have typically waited until that amount gets to $100 or so and then used them. But you could totally redeem $10 here, $5 there if you'd like.

It's interesting that United doesn't do a lot of marketing around this club.  Perhaps they're just keeping it around because there are loyal members from the Continental days.  Doesn't really matter to me as long as I continue to get the opportunity to save $100 or so a year on $25 in spend.

November 12, 2016

7 Tips for a Long Haul Flight

Over the last four years, I've taken almost 30 long haul flights in business or first class.  At the beginning, my expectations were based on reading vs. actual experiencing myself.  It didn't take long to figure out that the journey to the destination (the flight) could be incredibly relaxing, enjoyable, and really setup the entire trip by ensuring that I arrived rested and ready to go.  That said, getting on your first international first class flight might require a bit of restraint.  You'll want to eat/drink everything and it's so much fun, it can be a bummer to go to sleep.

I have a couple of friends and ATRP readers that are headed to the Maldives later this year in Etihad first class.  They've asked a few questions on how to prepare and I decided it would be easier to write a post about it and share with everyone.  So here it goes.

Aboard Etihad First Class Apartments
 Before reading this post, check out previous posts about pre-trip logistics as well as pre-flight logistics which focuses more on being organized than actually managing the flight.)

1)  Pack Smart
We try to carry-on as much as possible.  Both Emily and I bring a rollaboard bag and a backpack.  Even for a 7-8 night trip, it's possible to pack everything into a 22" carryon especially if headed to a warm weather destination.  Not only does this save time (checking on the front end, waiting for bags on the backend) but dramatically reduces the chances that you lose a bag.  We'll typically end up checking a bag coming home after doing some shopping but it's not as big of a deal if you end up with a delayed bag upon arriving at home (as long as you get it back).

Also keep in mind that you international first class means lots of goodies.  Pajamas, amenity kits, and more.  So you'll want to leave a little extra room if you're interested in bringing these items home.

September 25, 2016

Favorite New Hotel Amenity

One of the hardest parts of traveling is navigating.  Today, we take our smartphones for granted.  At home, we can make a dinner reservation, get directions, call an Uber, or Instagram all while trying not to get hit by a car crossing the street.

Internationally that's a bit more challenging,  Yes, there are carriers (T-Mobile) that offer pretty good international cell phone plans but do those phones work as well at home?

I generally add 100MB of data and 100 minutes of voice calling to my Verizon plan each trip.  $40 isn't cheap but it's an insurance policy against needing to call home, work, or use some data while out and about.

St. Regis Istanbul complimentary smartphone
The St. Regis Istanbul offers a free smartphone for the duration of your stay.  The Samsung phone (first tab using a Samsung and I much prefer my iPhone 6S) was pretty easy to setup although I found the navigation a bit challenging.  Regardless, we used the phone for maps, lunch recommendations, and weather.

I know more hotels are offering this as an amenity.  Given the (at least locally) cost of cellular data has come down so much, this can't cost the hotel very much and was really a huge benefit for us.  Kudos to the St. Regis Istanbul for offering a great amenity to guests!

September 5, 2016

Istanbul Taxi Scam

We spent an awesome day in Istanbul last month on the way to the Conrad Maldives.  We walked from the St. Regis down to the Bosphorus, across the Galata bridge, and up to the Grand Bazaar.

On the way back to the hotel, we were tired and hot after all the walking.  We decided to grab a cab from the base of the Galata bridge to the St. Regis.  We hopped in a cab and I showed the driver the address of the hotel and location on a map.  While he didn't speak much English, he nodded and seemed to know where he was going.

The ride started off fine until we made a right instead of a left (Pro tip:  Google Maps in offline mode is a huge help in these situations).  We were headed in the complete wrong direction.  He turned around and we seemed to be back on track.  We crossed the bridge and we were essentially retracing the steps from our walk earlier in the day.  He pulled over and said "this hotel?" as if to insinuate that we had arrived at our destination.  Nope...we were still 2+ miles away.

I showed him our hotel on the map with directions and he sped off in frustration.  Until we arrived at the Ritz Carlton across the park from the St. Regis.  "This hotel?" he said.

Nope.  "This hotel" both Emily and I pointed to on the map.  "Ahhhhh" was the next response from the driver.  We pulled up to the Hilton still a mile away from our hotel.

We had finally had enough and asked him to pull over so we could get out.  But first we had to sit at a red light...all the while, the meter was running.  The light finally turned green.  We paid the driver and  got out of the cab for the mile walk back to our actual hotel.

All in, the cab cost us $7 USD.  While we certainly could have hopped out of the cab earlier, we honestly weren't sure we were being hustled.  We initially thought the driver was just confused as this is a new hotel but started to become concerned once we headed in the wrong direction a couple of times.  I'm not sure we would have realized what was going on without watching our progress on our phones.

It was a memorable return to the hotel and one we've laughed at more than a handful of times.  I'm glad we made it back to the hotel in one piece (especially in Istanbul).  This is why I prefer trains.

September 4, 2016

Making Itinerary Changes on the Fly

We were originally scheduled to fly home from Tokyo on ANA through Houston.  This meant an early (11:15AM) departure from Tokyo's Narita airport which is a long haul from the city.  We were also booked on United economy (no big deal) from Houston to Denver.  But with more stuff coming home than when we left, it's always nice to board first and have guaranteed overhead bin space.

I'll usually spend a few minutes here and there while traveling to see if I can come up with anything "better" in terms of flights home.  Airlines often release last minute award seats and we've had good luck "upgrading" our flights home on both Cathay Pacific and Etihad.

I was up early one morning in the Maldives catching up on email and checking out flights home.  We were so excited about our time in Tokyo and really wanted more time on the ground to explore.  I found a MUCH better option home that would give us 6 more hours in Tokyo and first class on the domestic leg home.  The only issue was that the tickets were booked separately.  Emily's via United MileagePlus and mine via Air Canada's Aeroplan.  Air Canada's call centre is only open until midnight ET and it was already 1AM when I found the space.

Emily and I discussed and decided this would be a better option.  United's change fee was $100 while Air Canada's was 90 CAD (~$70 USD).  We both have leftover Barclays Arrival points that would offset part of the cash outlay.  Later that afternoon, I called Air Canada via Skype and sat on hold for 45 minutes.  While annoying, at this point we were planning what to do in Tokyo with the extra 6 hours so really wanted to make the change.

I finally got through and had the change made in about 5 minutes.  The record locator number remained the same and I was able to select seats on ANA's website without any issue.  One down, one to go.

I called United and was through to an agent on the premier line in a couple of minutes.  Same thing...change was done in about five minutes...record locator number remained the same and the ticket issued without any issues.

ANA First Class
All in, I spent a little over an hour making the change.  In exchange for more time on the ground in an amazing city and a more direct routing home.  Flexibility is key in this game.  I generally want to plan as far ahead as possible so "locking" something in is important to me.  I know that I'll likely be able to improve an itinerary later with some cost (in dollars and time) and that works just fine for me.

August 7, 2016

My Pre-Trip Logistics Routine

This is an update to an older post (from 2014) on logistics preparation before a long trip.  Since then, I've taken another half dozen or so of these trips and each trip has gone smoother than the last.  Traveling is stressful and the more you prepare upfront, the better. Here are some of the things I do in the weeks leading up to the trip.

1)  Build an Itinerary

When I was a kid and we would go on family vacations, my Mom would make these intense folders containing all the information about our destination.  Maps, articles, restaurant reviews, etc...I think the internet has made things a lot easier where it's much more manageable to rely on your phone as both a guide book and a "trip folder."  But I've found (especially in Asia) that having a printed copy of things is super helpful.  You may be asked for a confirmation number, the address of your hotel, or the credit card in which you booked your flight.  

So I always build an electronic (and then print several copies) itinerary containing our flights, hotels, lounge options, who we confirmed activities with, has really come in handy on more than a few occasions.  The act of building the itinerary (probably takes 30 minutes) forces me to ensure that all flights are confirmed and on the right day, hotels are booked, and we have all of the confirmation numbers/addresses should we not be able to use our phones.  Plus, it's an easy way to provide your friends and family with your trip plans and contact information.

August 6, 2016

Navigating Istanbul Layover Options

For our upcoming RTW adventure, we're ending up with ~21 hours in Istanbul.  Turkish Airlines has a generous layover policy in that they offer several complimentary choices (requirements vary based on travel class) to enjoy the city between flights.  We've gone back and forth several times on the best option but finally made a decision this week.

Here were are options, logic, and why we chose to pay our own way for our one night stay.

1)  We could stay at the airport and enjoy the amazing Turkish Airlines CIP lounge (now remained the July 15 Heroes of Democracy Lounge).  I am not kidding.  Based on our original plan, this would have made more sense as we only had a 9 hour layover.  The lounge is massive (60,000 square feet) and has plenty of space to relax, (although it does get crowded) eat, drink, and sleep.  With a 21 hour layover, this made a lot less sense.

July 15 Heroes of Democracy Lounge
2)  Turkish Airlines offers a free hotel room (typically by the airport) for economy layovers of 10+ hours and business class layovers of 7+ hours.  They transport you to the hotel and back to the airport.  The layover must be "forced" in that there can't be an earlier Turkish flight to your final designation.  In our case, there's only one flight a day to Male so we qualify.  While this would save us money, it would not save us time and we'd end up in a hotel close to the airport and still have to get into the city.

Turkish Airlines free hotel T's & C's
3)  Turkish Airlines offers free tours of the city!  There are minimal requirements related to layover/travel class - you just need sufficient time for the tour.  The tours vary by day and time and include transportation, an English speaking guide, and meal(s).  We generally aren't the biggest fans of tours (even free ones) as we prefer to explore on our own.  So while this would be a great option for a ~10-12 hour layover, we opted to skip the free tour this trip.

Tour Istanbul with Turkish Airlines

Sample Friday tours
4)  Build our own itinerary.  We'll be landing around 5AM local time and departing at 2AM the next day.  By the time we clear immigration and shower/eat in the arrivals lounge, it will likely by 6:30 AM.  We'll head into the city (in theory traffic should be lighter at that hour) to explore.  We opted to book a hotel room (more details in the planning and booking post) through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts which should allow us to check into the hotel by noon or earlier.  We'll have a home base to shower, rest, and generally relax while we spend the day exploring the city.

Obviously we chose option # 4.  While we're spending a bit more money with this option, if we didn't book a hotel room, we would be traveling nearly 48 hours without one - way too long.  Given the current state of affairs in Istanbul, we both felt more comfortable staying in an area we are familiar with and at a hotel chain we trust.

Turkish Airlines provides a ton of great options to entice travelers to fly through Istanbul.  So many options, it's challenging to make a decision!  Stay tuned for more details on our trip in upcoming posts.

July 30, 2016

Getting a Turkey e-Visa

In preparation for a day in Turkey, we needed to obtain an e-Visa.  During our last trip to Turkey, you could easily purchase a visa on the ground.  While there was a line, it was short and there was no issue in getting the visa and then heading through passport control.  Since our last trip, Turkey has launched an e-Visa program where you can apply online, pay for the visa, and download it as a PDF to bring along with you.  Essentially, you have to go through this process as (at least from what I understand) Turkey is no longer offering visa on arrival (VOA) to US Citizens.

I found purchasing the visa to be really straightforward and the entire process took me less than five minutes.

June 26, 2016

Red-eye vs. Daytime Flight?

We are just a couple of months away from our latest adventure.  I'm working on finalizing details and will post an overview as soon as it comes together.  For now, we're headed back to the Maldives for four nights and have a couple of other cool stops as we circumnavigate the globe for the second time.

Going going back to back to...
 As of now, we're leaving Male for Tokyo with an overnight in Singapore.  This means a daytime flight from Male departing around 1PM and getting into Singapore around 8:40PM.  Followed by an early morning departure to Tokyo landing in the early afternoon.  The good news is that we'll be flying to Tokyo's Haneda airport which is far closer to the city.  But essentially we'll be spending two back to back days flying with a total of 12 hours in the air.

Current itinerary
Another option would be to take Singapore Airline's red-eye flight from Male to Singapore.  We took this flight last year and while it was fun, it wasn't that fun.  It's a late departure and an early arrival without proper time (<5 hour flight) to get a full night's sleep.  You have to balance that with an extra half day in the Maldives...which doesn't suck.  We could step right off that flight and onto our planned daytime flight to Haneda.  Or we could spend the day in Singapore and take another red-eye that evening to Narita.  But back to back red-eye's seems crazy.

So as of now, I'm leaning to keeping our itinerary as planned.  We will have a bit less time in the Maldives on our final day but we'll have a daytime seaplane ride to Male to look forward to.  We'll land in Singapore early enough that we can go into the city if we're feeling up to it.  Then we'll wake up rested the next morning for an 8AM flight to Haneda.

In certain cases, red-eye's are great.  They can save you the cost of a hotel room and enable you to enjoy a full day at your destination.  While I'd love more time in either the Maldives or Tokyo, I also want to feel relaxed and rested in both places.  Plus, I'm excited for back-to-back flights on one of my favorite airlines.

Would you choose a red-eye or a daytime flight?

May 22, 2016

My Strategy for Managing Cash While Traveling

People often ask me how I manage cash when traveling internationally.  It's not possible to use a credit card in every situation (Thai massage on the beach, cabs in many countries, etc...) so it's a good idea to have a cost effective way of getting cash when abroad.  The easiest way to get cash is from an ATM.  But most US banks will charge a fee when withdrawing cash from an international ATM.  Sometimes even two fees (a percentage of the transaction and a flat fee)!  Note that this posted originally appeared in 2014 - I've updated a couple of items for clarity.

Fortunately, there are a number of checking accounts which feature "fee-free" ATM withdrawals worldwide.  My primary checking account (Schwab Bank HighYield Investor Checking) comes with this feature.  When I withdraw cash from an ATM (in the US or abroad) I'm typically charged a $2 - $4 fee.  At the end of each month, I receive a deposit from Schwab for the fees charged during my ATM withdrawals.

Schwab Bank High Yield Investor Checking Features

Schwab isn't the only bank that provides this service.  The Points Guy has a great list of the best bank accounts for this purpose.  So there are lots of options.  Once I arrive at my destination, I typically withdraw enough cash (~$100 USD) to pay for the cab to the hotel and a few other snacks/waters/tips, etc with a few dollars left over...

Depending on where we are and what we have planned for the next day, I'll make another withdrawal.  The last thing you want is a ton of extra currency when you leave for him (although I always try to keep the equivalent of $1-$2USD as a souvenir ).  I end up making 2-3 withdrawals per country and incur somewhere between $6 - $12 in fees which are rebated at the end of the month.  Schwab has had this feature as part of their High Yield Checking account for years - hopefully it's not something they change anytime soon!

April 30, 2016

Review: Denver A Line Train to the Plane

After nearly 30 years of planning, twelve years since a successful ballot initiative, and six long years of construction, Denver finally has a rail line connecting downtown and the airport.

RTD's University of Colorado A  Line opened to long lines and great fan fare on 4/22/2016.  Note that the nod to CU in the line name comes from a paid sponsorship.

The commuter (heavier gauge than light rail) rail train leaves every 15 minutes for most of the day (30 minutes in the early morning and late evening hours) from both Denver's Union Station and Denver International Airport.

The entire ride takes 37 minutes, stops 7 times on the way to the airport, and costs $9 each way.

August 15, 2015

How to Deal With a Flight Schedule Change

Emily and I had planned to go to Hawaii in late October for a few days at The Andaz Maui.  We booked flights in early January and our upgrades (using United miles) on the outbound leg cleared at the time of booking.  While we were excited about the trip, we were actually looking to "get out of it" at couple of points across the past few months.  We could cancel the trip straight away and receive credit on United minus a $400 penalty - pretty step.

As luck would have it, a United schedule change moved our outbound aircraft from a wide body to a narrow body 737 (slower and domestic first class) and our inbound (direct from OGG to DEN) flight up a little over an hour.  Typically United won't notify you of these changes - you have to be diligent about gardening your reservations.

Our hotel reservations (booked with Hyatt points) were refundable so I figured this was our opportunity.  I called United and spoke with a great agent and explained that the changes were somewhat annoying (okay maybe a stretch) and she put my on hold to see what she could do.  She offered to waive the change fee penalty making the cancellation essentially fee free.  We now have roughly $1800 in credit on United - something we'll definitely use over the next year - so no big deal.

The best part is that flight costs have actually come down - so we could rebook similar flights to Maui for a few hundred dollars less.  So we may end up taking the trip after all.

February 22, 2015

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.

January 23, 2015

Our Bag Was Lost...Then Found

Lost bags happen.  It's a part of flying but I've been lucky.  I've flown over 270,000 miles in the past three years and haven't had any issues.  But given the drama surrounding our flight to Hong Kong, we  knew we'd be lucky to have our bag make the flight.

When we arrived in Hong Kong after an awesome flight aboard SQ001, a Singapore Airlines customer service representative was waiting for us at the end of the jet bridge.  We were escorted through immigration and shown to the baggage service desk.  We were told that our bag would arrive the following day on the same flight (SQ001).  So we had 24 hours to go with just a carry on.  We filled out a claim form with our contact information and we were handed 800HKD ($103 USD) which seemed reasonable for 24 hours.

Luckily, we always plan for this and Emily had a handful of items in my carry on.  The Grand Hyatt was extremely accommodating - providing toiletries and hair utensils for Emily at no charge.  We woke up the next morning and checked on the status of the bag - it had not arrived.  We contacted Singapore via email and they were still working to locate the bag.  Ruh-roh.

I had mentally begun taking stock of what was in the bag and losing it would really suck.  We had dinner that evening with a friend so needed to get some nicer clothes.  We went to mall and kept our receipts.

The aftermath

That evening, we still hadn't heard back from Singapore.  So we emailed.  And called.  And then tweeted.  Finally we got a response (actually from both Singapore and United) that our bag would arrive that evening on United's direct flight from San Francisco.  Hoorah!  We notified the concierge and asked that they bring the bag up when received.  The bag arrived around 11PM that evening - more than 40 hours since we landed in Hong Kong.

Upon arriving back in the states, we filed a claim with Singapore Airlines for the rest of our expenses.  I am still waiting for the check but sounds like it should be here in the next few weeks - I will keep all of you posted.

So lost bags definitely do happen.  And airlines are generally pretty good at finding them even if they are bad at keeping you in the loop on their progress.  We always anticipate this situation on long haul trips and pack a carry on with a variety of items - just in case.  Here's to another 270,000+ miles without another lost bag...

October 22, 2014

British Airways 747 Coming to Denver!

British Airways announced yesterday that they will be up-gauging the current daily 777 Denver - London (LHR) service to a 747 in March of 2015!  This is awesome for several reasons:

1)  Denver International Airport will see additional 747 service - the only current 747 at DIA is Lufthansa's Denver - Frankfurt flight and equipment varies by day
2)  This represents an increase in capacity of 23% - more award seats anyone?
3)  I've been working on earning the BA "Travel Together Ticket" and I would love nothing more than to redeem it for this flight

British Airways 747 Seat Map Key

But the biggest news is that the 747 will add first class service to the Denver market.  The current 777 service provides three classes (business, premium economy, economy) but doesn't have first class.  Very exciting!

Courtesy of - BA first on the 747

I am kind of surprised to see BA adding capacity on the route but it must be doing well and there must be demand for first class for them to make the swap.  I'll keep you posted as award availability becomes available.

October 21, 2014

How to Manage Vacation Photos

One of the most challenging aspects of coming home from a trip is figuring out what to do with all those photos.  It doesn't matter if it was a family reunion, wedding weekend, couples getaway, or a RTW trip in international first class...we all take a million photos.

They're on multiple devices...sometimes the same picture on my phone, Emily's phone, and our point and shoot camera.  I want to remember the trips we've taken and share with others (beyond this blog) and I don't want to resort to sorting through thousands of pictures on dropbox.

Our favorite photo book (and picture) from our trip to Bali

Our solution is twofold.  First, we pick the best pictures from each of our trips and we print and frame them.  We have a nice collection of photos in our dining room from Hong Kong, Istanbul, Dubai, Thailand, and Singapore.  That part is relatively easy.

Second, we (well actually I) make photo books.  I've used a bunch of different platforms over the years from Photozini (now out of business) to  But the best platform I've used to date is Artifact Uprising.

A few of our vacation photo books

They are actually a local Denver company and the quality of both the software for creating the books and the actual book itself is very high.  I've used them to purchase some prints as well from Bali that our hanging in our bedroom.  Brad Feld wrote a great piece a few months ago on a similar topic - wroth the read.

I love looking back at the books and sharing them with friends and family.  It's a great way to relive the trip and well worth the time it takes to sort and edit pictures.

October 18, 2014

Curb to Train in 4 Minutes

I'm flying today and set a new personal record.  I made it from the curb at DIA to the train (that provides transportation to the gates) in four minutes.  There was a pretty big general security line (probably 10-15 minutes waiting time) but no pre-check line.

Three beeps later, I was speeding through the metal detector to grab my bags and head for the train.  I can't say enough good things about the TSA's pre-check program.  Getting through an airport would really suck without it!

October 6, 2014

Smoothest Weekend Trip in a Long Time

Emily and I were in Vegas over the weekend and had perhaps on of the smoothest weekend trips ever.  There is definitely an art to planning a weekend getaway since you're short on time and a good portion of that time is taken up by traveling and sleeping.  But we're at the place now where we can leave Friday after work and return Sunday and still feel ready to tackle the week.

The logistics absolutely matter and things like pre-check, lounge access, and wifi on planes make a short weekend more enjoyable.

We left Denver around 4 on Friday and were in the parking garage by 4:30.  In three minutes we had one of the best (probably the best) parking spots we've ever had at DIA.  We were literally 100 feet from the terminal.  Three beeps later and we were through pre-check and on our way to Lounge 5280 for a pre-flight cocktail.

Our flight boarded on time and was completely empty.  We had exit row 21 (pro tip:  always select row 21 on United flights if you're able to get an exit row) all to ourselves.  As they shut the door my upgrade cleared so of course I sent Emily upfront.  While she enjoyed a cocktail and a bigger seat, I had three seats to myself and fast wifi.

We landed 15 minutes early and made our way to the Centurion Lounge for some dinner.  We had a great time on Saturday checking out the brand new SLS Las Vegas and eating dinner at Andrea's which is one of the best new restaurants in town.

We woke up this morning...showered, packed, and headed to the airport around 9 for our 11AM flight.  We literally made it from the hotel room through security in 30 minutes thanks to light traffic and pre-check.

Another stop in the Centurion Lounge for breakfast and some fantasy football line-up setting before boarding.  I'm writing this at 37,000 feet while watching the second half of the morning NFL games.

We'll be on the ground by us plenty of time to get home and enjoy our Sunday afternoon.  If only things went this smoothly at the blackjack table.

July 10, 2014

Why You Should Register for Hotel Promotions

Almost every major loyalty hotel program offers some sort of quarterly bonus program.  In some cases (IHG, Hilton) they offer more than one bonus per quarter.  The trick is that you have to register for these promotions by entering your loyalty program number (or username) and password.  The promotions can range from double points on all states to free nights towards elite status and more.

You can find out about these promotions via email or checking blogs.  Typically I am pretty lazy on this front and just sign-up for the bonuses where I know I have an upcoming stay.  For some reason, I registered for this Hilton promotion (actually offered for all of 2014) offering 2,000 bonus HHonors points for each stay at a Conrad or Waldorf Astoria.

I actually stayed at the New York Waldorf in May so must have registered after because I didn't receive any points for that stay.  I did however receive 2,000 points for my one night stay at the Conrad New York.  The points don't provide a ton of value - maybe $10 but still better than nothing.  I have an upcoming stay tonight at the Conrad Singapore for two nights so in theory should receive an additional 4,000 points for that stay.  We'll see if they post.

Anyway...always sign-up for these promotions if you travel frequently.  Especially if you travel for business.  You never know when you'll receive a little surprise in your loyalty account.

June 21, 2014

Pre-Trip Prep: Logistics

Over the past couple of weeks, I've posted about how to maximize your stays by reaching out to the hotel prior to arrival and how to make the most of your flights by selecting seats and meals prior to departure.  Today's post will focus on logistics.  I've found that being prepared can really make a long haul trip much smoother so here are some of the things I do in the weeks leading up to the trip.

1)  Build an Itinerary

When I was a kid and we would go on family vacations, my Mom would make these intense folders containing all the information about our destination.  Maps, articles, restaurant reviews, etc...I think the internet has made things a lot easier where it's much more manageable to rely on your phone as both a guide book and a "trip folder."  But I've found (especially in Asia) that having a printed copy of things is super helpful.  You may be asked for a confirmation number, the address of your hotel, or the credit card in which you booked your flight.  

So I always build an electronic (and then print several copies) itinerary containing our flights, hotels, lounge options, who we confirmed activities with, has really come in handy on more than a few occasions.  Plus, it's an easy way to provide your friends and family with your trip plans and contact information.  I actually put it in a folder (my Mom would be so proud) for each country I'm visiting and put it in my carry on bag.